CHARLOTTE — West Charlotte native Steve Wilks has been here before.
The San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator will make his third appearance in the Super Bowl Sunday, after previous trips with the Carolina Panthers in 2015 when he was the defensive coordinator, and with Chicago in 2006 for Super Bowl XLI, when Wilks was the Bears defensive backs coach.
“It’s a great feeling,” Wilks said of the opportunity.
“It’s what we coach and play for — to be able to play on the biggest stage which is the Super Bowl.”
His road to get to the biggest stage didn’t come without hurdles. Or disappointment.
Wilks is in his first season on the 49ers staff, after spending the 2022 season with the Carolina Panthers. There he worked as the secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator -- and later, as the interim head coach when Matt Rhule was fired.
Under Wilks, the Panthers finished the season in a tie for second place in the NFC South, winning six of their last 12 games. The team started the season 1-4.
The West Charlotte native was among the candidates who interviewed to be the Panthers next head coach. He didn’t get the job.
Last week, in the days ahead of Super Bowl LVIII, Wilks took a moment to reflect nearly one year removed from the Panthers decision.
“Everything in life happens for a reason, and sometimes we don’t understand and know the answer,” he said.
“Sometimes we have to understand that there is a process to things and sometimes what we want is not in God’s plans. So I had to accept that and then I was very fortunate for Him to lead me in a good direction… with a good organization.”
In joining the 49ers staff, Wilks would also inherit the NFL’s top-ranked defense, previously led by Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans.
“A lot of people couldn’t come into this situation and really handle it because they were number one last year. You say okay, where can you go from here?”
“I came in with a lot of confidence, but also humility to be able to say I want to learn what you guys have been doing, and then I could find ways to sprinkle in things that I have done in the past, that I have had success with. We were able to build trust with one another. Coaches starting out as well as the players. It’s been great,” he said.
As Wilks enters his third Super Bowl, he’ll do so with gratitude for the moment, hunger for a win, and with his hometown of West Charlotte on his mind.
“My love and passion for the city of Charlotte is incomparable. West Charlotte has really groomed me to be in this position. The things that I have learned at a young age, and not just talking about my foundation with my family but my West Charlotte family,” he said.
“I’m looking for a victorious game. But to be able to do it with this group of men, this organization has been phenomenal. Since I’ve been here, I’ve only felt great love. The way they go about their operations starts with ownership. Jed York does a tremendous job. You look at Kyle (Shanahan), you look at John (Lynch) and how they collaborate on everything, it’s phenomenal.”
(WATCH BELOW: AP source: 49ers hire Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator)
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