For a majority of professional athletes, typical offseason activities include spending time with family, taking vacations and improving strength. A period of relaxation also never hurts.
But for a few athletes, the time is seen as an opportunity to take on a new challenge.
Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson embraced an experience that he says now will be part of his offseason plan moving forward.
Together, Wilson, linebacker Bart Scott and running back Joe McKnight spent a few spring and summer months participating in mixed martial arts training.
“It was new, but I wanted to try it,” Wilson said. “It was definitely a lot of hand-to-hand contact and that’s a good portion of what you do in football.”
Wilson said it was Scott’s idea to try the unique form of training, crediting his teammate for always trying to help others. He stated that the trio practiced MMA two to three times a week and described the training sessions as "more intense” than a Jets practice.
“The conditioning is a different type of conditioning,” he said. “You are doing different exercises for like a minute at a time. You’re going to be sweating in like the first five minutes of the workout.”
For Wilson, the toughest part of MMA training was having to get into a ring for sparring once a week. While the offseason experience is now complete, the third-year Jet said he has noticed a difference in his play.
“I’m hitting my targets better, but in the right spots,” he said. “I’d definitely say I’m stronger with my hands. I’m just used to getting my hands on guys every play, and that’s a big thing playing defensive back.”
“K-Dub,” as his Jet teammates call him, has always been a part of winning football programs. Playing wide receiver, he helped Piscataway (N.J.) High School capture three straight state sectional championships. Then in college, he guided Boise State to two Fiesta Bowl wins during his four years. However, joining one of the NFL’s top defenses wasn’t an easy adjustment.
“It was tough,” Wilson said. “Basically I had to learn a new position, learn new terminology, new techniques, and then overall learning what the offenses are trying to do to you. But I also figured out that the situations we’re put in on defense, especially at nickel, are not normal to a lot of teams or what I’ve been used to in the past. So I just had to keep fighting and keep learning and basically just stay aggressive and learn from my mistakes.”
During his time with the Green & White, the 5’10”, 210-pounder has learned a tremendous amount from fellow standout cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis. Wilson said he pays close attention to the duo’s techniques, how they view film and how they take care of their bodies.
“I’m around them a lot so it’s definitely like a brotherhood we have,” he said. “Every day we’re challenging each other and holding each other accountable to the highest standards, and coming out and working every day.”
As the team prepares for its final days in Cortland, Wilson looks to keep his momentum rolling. Sunday’s practice might have been his best at training camp as he had two interceptions.
“Individually, I definitely think it’s my best camp so far,” he said. “I definitely came in here with some goals, and I really challenged myself mentally and physically out here on a daily basis, even in meetings just to focus a lot more and just to get better.”
No. 20 for the Green & White hopes his unique program will translate into positive results for him and the Jets this season. The experience he shared with Scott and McKnight is special. But so was the other first-time thing he did this offseason.
“I like to go on a vacation every year," Wilson said. "This year I went to the Dominican Republic. It was my first time out of the country.”
An offseason to remember, that’s for sure.