Oct 12, 2022 - Sports

8 things to know about Carolina Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks

Photo: David Eulitt/Getty Images

Photo: David Eulitt/Getty Images

Steve Wilks had around 300 texts when the Carolina Panthers named him interim head coach Monday.

State of play: He replaced Matt Rhule, whom the Panthers fired that day. Wilks is not looking beyond the present when it comes to possibly being named permanent head coach, he told the media during his introductory press conference on Tuesday.

  • He repeatedly said he’s focused on their upcoming game on Sunday at the Los Angeles Rams, declining to share his reaction to the promotion.

Why it matters: Wilks is the first Charlottean to lead the team, and he’s the Panthers’ second Black head coach — Perry Fewell replaced Ron Rivera in 2019 and went 0-4.

  • Of note: Wilks replaced Fewell as defensive backs coach with the Chicago Bears in 2006 when Fewell left to become Buffalo’s defensive coordinator. It was Wilks’s first job in the NFL.

Here are nine things to know about Wilks. 

1. Wilks is a West Charlotte High alumnus.

  • West Charlotte isn’t just a school you attend — for many alumni, it’s a family you join
  • “I can’t disregard where I’m from,” Wilks said Tuesday when I asked him about what this moment means for West Charlotte. “Where I grew up, is dear to my heart.”
  • “I understand, quote, unquote, the torch that I may carry, but I hope I am a great example to a lot of individuals that feel like they too can succeed and make it in any capacity,” Wilks added.

2. He played football at App State with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Johnny Jennings.

  • “I can’t think of a better selection for Panthers interim head coach than Steve Wilks,” Jennings tweeted. “With deep roots in Charlotte, long history with the Panthers, and most importantly as a former App State teammate of mine I’m confident he’ll lead the team in the right direction.”

3. He’s an advocate.

Wilks, who served as the Cardinals’ head coach in 2018, joined former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL earlier this year. The lawsuit claims the league and its teams discriminate against Black people in their hiring practices.

4. He’s seen success in Charlotte before.

Wilks worked with the Panthers from 2012-17, which included a trip to the Super Bowl during the 2015 season and three consecutive NFC South championships from 2013-2015.

  • “I know what it takes,” Wilks said. “I’ve been around here when it was good.”

5. His coaching career started here.

Wilks’ coaching career began in with Johnson C. Smith, a historically Black university, in west Charlotte. It was 1995, and Golden Bulls head coach Daryl McNeill hired him as defensive coordinator.

6. Wilks played quarterback in high school and wore the No. 9 his senior year.

He was a standout quarterback for the Lions before playing defensive back for the Mountaineers.

7. He also ran track.

At 11 years old, he won 800-meter and came in third in the 400-meter in the midget boys (ages 10-12) category at the N.C. Junior Olympics championships in Durham in 1981. He was part of the Charlotte Striders, qualifying for the Junior Olympics Southeast Regionals in Memphis, according to Charlotte Observer archives.

8. He and his wife, Marcia, created a scholarship.

They founded the Steve & Marcia Wilks Post-Graduate Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship in 2021.

  • It annually goes to an App State student-athlete from an underrepresented population pursuing a graduate degree. 
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