The NFL Arms Race: How Isaiah Wilson Is Winning It

Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — You ever go to the gym on a Monday, on a chest day, and see someone else in there doing arms? Then you come in the next day to do legs and that same person is in there doing arms? And then you come in on Wednesday to do cardio and that same person is still doing arms?

Isaiah Wilson doesn't look like that guy. He looks like he ate that guy, then stole his arm workout and did it himself.

The young Georgia right tackle came into the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine at nearly 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds. In a room full of giant athletes, Wilson still stands out.

Though physically imposing for a good portion of his life, Wilson didn't stand out on the football field until his sophomore season. But after starting two seasons, he was able to grasp the game well.

"It was kind of a quick transition," Wilson said Wednesday. "I learned a lot in the last two years, so it wasn't an uninformed decision. I enjoyed the process of becoming ready to [play in the NFL]. I learned a lot, and the game started to slow down for me, which made me think I was ready to take the next step of my journey."

Once Wilson was able to slow the game down in his mind, that's when his physicality was able to really shine through. He learned the kind of power he has in his hands (and the rest of him), but he also learned that without the right plan of attack and discipline that the strength that helps him stand out can't be tapped into.

"A strength is that I'm physical," Wilson said. "I like to beat people up. I like watching people quit when I play against them. One of my weaknesses is hand technique. I wouldn't even call it a weakness. It's just something I need to work on."

When it came to the stereotypical pro comparison question that comes with each podium session, Wilson seemed to have a good understanding that, though size is an asset, there aren't many guys, even at the highest level of football, who are playing at the measurements he is. But the few that are are well on his radar.

“I studied Trent Brown a lot because I want to be like him," Wilson said. "The punch he has, it’s a vicious punch. Tyrone Smith is another one. He’s a monster out there; fast athletic strong. I watched Joe Thomas when I was younger growing up. I always tried to emulate him and the athletic kick that he had. That was special. I’d like to know how he does it. I'm gonna have to ask him if I ever meet him. It’s special to watch Ronnie Stanley, it’s fun to watch Orlando Browns. It’s fun to watch all the big ballers, all the big athletic guys. I definitely look up to people like that.”

Wilson really does look like something out of a superhero. You can't miss him and you can’t miss the ink that covers one of his arms. Tattoos often tell a story, and that's the case for Wilson.

When asked about which piece of art is his favorite, he picked his first one, the one that holds the purpose of his play.

“It was for my aunt," Wilson said. "I worked a lot when I was younger. My dad was always working as well. My aunt babysat me a lot, and she taught me a lot of things about life. She taught me how to make my first pack of noodles, she taught me how to tie my shoes, she taught me how to play Pac Man. I loved her dearly and she passed away when I was 10. I just decided that was gonna be my first tattoo so I could honor her and do everything in light of her and how she was a special person. I love it.”

For a while, Wilson's talent was restrained. First by late-blooming, then by playing time. But now it seems like he's coming into his own. Over the last two years, we've seen glimpses of what the Brooklyn-born prospect can really do.

For Wednesday's podium session, instead of wearing a sweater or long sleeve like other prospects, Wilson had to switch it up in a cutoff t-shirt.

"I was kind of hot in the sweater yesterday," Wilson said. "I had to free my arms today."

But maybe that was more than just a random decision to control the temperature. Perhaps that was a bit symbolic.

It's time for Wilson to flex on the league.