The story of John C Wilson
One of the endearing stories from the inaugural Buccaneer training camp, was that NFL Films were covering it in more detail than had been seen in the game before. Ed Sabol and Hugh Culverhouse wanted the project to work, so Ed's son Steve, now head of NFL Films, had more access to players and meetings than ever before.
One result was a chance to feature a free agent running back named John C Wilson. He had been out of football for two years but came to Buccaneer camp trying to get a shot to play in the NFL. Steve Sabol filmed him early in camp in the event that his making the team would make for a great story.
"I'm not doing too well on the mental side of the game so they're taking me along slow," said Wilson early in camp, " I'm just not too good at learning but I'm trying. I've just about got it down now though."
But the ultimate story became when Wilson was cut. Steve Sabol was filming from one end of camp and Coach John McKay was still wearing his microphone, when he told Wilson that he was going to be released from the team. This really was the first time anything like this had been seen out of the NFL before.
"We're going to have to let you go" said McKay to an obviously upset Wilson. "But I think you've worked hard at it. You've lost some of your speed during your two years away and it's tough to come back from that. We're going to put you on waivers so I want you to work out every day and if some team comes to pick you up, you'll be ready to show the coach what you can do."
Sabol then filmed Wilson packing his bags and seeing his name taken off his locker at One Buc Place. "I'm just going to go back home" said Wilson. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I didn't even get a chance to know half the guys on the team. I just phoned my Grandad and told him I got cut - he thought I got cut with a knife."
Some 25 years later, Steve Sabol and NFL Films decided for the anniversary project, that they would try and track down John C Wilson, the ultimate Lost Treasure for their series of the same name, They put the entire NFL Films research team on the project and eventually after a week, Erica Pitt, head of the team, tracked down the former Buccaneer back.
Now working as a Truant Officer for a Kingstree Junior High School in South Carolina, John C Wilson had never seen the footage of him being released and didn't even know they were filming it at the time.
"I had no malice towards them" he remembered on seeing the film for the first time. "They gave me a shot. I felt good that I'd done the best I could and I followed them all year."
And as NFL Films completed their piece, one last nice touch remained. "I'm glad you came" said John remembering a brief moment in his life 25 years earlier. "This has made my year seeing this."