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All Marc Wilson Has Done This Season Is Win

December 17, 1985|MARK HEISLER | Times staff writer

Some things that have happened since Marc Wilson, Raider playoff quarterback, last read a newspaper:

--Prince Charles and Princess Di visited the United States.

--The Kansas City Royals won the World Series.

--Ronald Reagan met the Russians.

As an act of self-preservation, Wilson shuns formal critiques, like those found in newspapers and local TV sports shows during the football season.

But he has to stick his head out sometime and when he does . . .

"I may not read the words," Wilson was saying Monday, "But I can read the feelings of the people around me. I think what you guys write has an effect on the team. You come to practice and you can sense everybody kind of wondering what's going to happen.

"I can tell from the reaction of the players, the guy at the grocery store, the guy at the bank, the mood of what you guys are saying. It doesn't take a genius to see what's going on."

It would take a census to count it all, though. Wilson's critics have included teammates--and on the Raiders, they have a tendency to make the newspapers--and Raider officials.

And then there are the network boys. Two ESPN commentators Sunday debated the possibility of an imminent return by Jim Plunkett at length, apparently unaware that Plunkett remains on the injured-reserve list.

A third commentator, former Ram Jack Youngblood, alluding to Wilson's refusal to be interviewed and desire to stay uninvolved, remarked, "Doesn't want to get involved? He is involved."

The same Youngblood used to ritually tell writers probing the latest Ram competition at the position that there was no such thing as a quarterback controversy.

The message seems to be getting across slowly, but the Raiders have decided this is Wilson's season. Tom Flores suggested again Monday that Plunkett wouldn't be activated until the playoffs, and if then, only to be a backup.

How has all of this come crashing down on Wilson's head?

He has 10 victories in 12 starts this season, but terrible personal statistics. He has played hurt and obediently stuck to the Raider scheme, which can get a quarterback into a hospital quicker than into the Hall of Fame.

He is also a little short on charisma.

He is not, however, anything close to being as quiet as is imagined.

"Everybody thinks I'm too nice a guy to play because I didn't grow up in the Bronx with a street gang," Wilson said. "I can get very heated about that. Because I grew up in a middle-class family, with supportive parents and loving brother and sisters, I'm projected as too nice a guy to play. The really upsets me. But there's that mentality around. I think it's garbage.

"I've been characterized as very shy, quiet, an unemotional-type player. I think I am quiet. I'm shy with people I don't know. But people who know me, I don't think they'd say I'm shy.

"I'm not a rah-rah player. I'm not a guy who makes a lot of noise. I'm not a flashy-type guy. I don't think that lends itself to what you guys try to do. I'm not a Lyle (Alzado), or a Howie (Long) or a Todd (Christensen). I'm not going to make a lot of headlines. Diane Shah (of the Herald Examiner) said the Raiders were becoming a boring team and I'm the best example. I'm an ordinary-type guy. But that's me. And I'm not going to change.

"I think if it weren't for the Denver game, and the four interceptions, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I think that's what stirred everything up.

"It's tough to make mistakes and turn around and have to go back out there. It's not easy to run out on the field and have the guy say, 'No. 6, quarterback Marc Wilson' and just wait for the reaction.

"I thought once I had the chance to play and could play week after week, things would start to happen. I think they kind of have. I've felt better every week. Maybe a couple of weeks I haven't had games that would back that up but I've felt better every week. It's a learning process. It continues, no matter how many years you've been in the league.

"I've felt secure all year long. I started playing where we were 1-2 and it didn't look good. We'd been blown out of two games. And since, we've come back strong. I feel like I'm part of that.

"But I really have been looking over my shoulder, wondering if somebody else is going to come in and play."

"Somebody else," is, of course, Plunkett. Wilson and Plunkett have only a polite relationship. Both are quiet, highly competitive men, with the big difference being that Plunkett is older and better established, if also more scarred.

A year ago, Wilson looked over his shoulder and saw something coming all right. It was Plunkett, who replaced him.

"I could sense it coming," Wilson says. "I had a feeling three or four weeks prior to when it happened. They were just waiting for something to happen to make a move.

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