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The Playmakers Corner presents Faith, Family, and Football: An Exclusive Interview with Coach Steve Wilks


In a compelling dialogue that transcends the boundaries of sports, The Playmakers Corner had the privilege of engaging in a candid conversation with Coach Steve Wilks, a revered figure in the realm of football and former defensive coordinator for San Francisco 49ers. From his deep-rooted faith to his unwavering commitment to family and community, Wilks's journey offers a multifaceted perspective on the intersection of faith, family, and football.

Wilks's journey traces back to his formative years spent at East Stonewall A.M.E. Zion Church, where the seeds of faith and community were sown. Reflecting on his upbringing, Wilks fondly reminisces about his involvement in the church choir and his mother, Reba Wilks, serving as the church secretary and how she is still very much active with the Lay Council. He stated the profound influence of the current Pastor, Rev. Dr. Amy S. Ciceron. "East Stonewall is more than a church to me; it's a cornerstone of my identity," Wilks shares. "It's where I learned the values of integrity, service, and compassion that continue to guide me to this day." Wilks went on to say, “Everything starts with my faith, how I live my life, how I conduct my day-to-day operations; I have to have that spiritual background. It’s what gets me through the day, and my family allows me to do what I love doing. I often call them Team Wilks; they are always behind me 100%.”

The theme of family resonates deeply with Wilks, who credits his wife, Marcia, and their three children as pillars of support throughout his career. Marcia is my rock, my confidante, and my biggest supporter," he shares with a smile. "She's the General Manager of 'Team Wilks' – handling day-to-day operations, personnel matters, and ensuring our family operates like a well-oiled machine."

Wilks's coaching odyssey is a testament to his resilience and determination to make a difference on and off the field. Beginning his career at Johnson C. Smith University, Wilks honed his craft while imparting invaluable lessons to his players. "Coaching at JCSU was a transformative experience," Wilks recalls. "It taught me the importance of perseverance, resourcefulness, and making the most of every opportunity." JCSU is where he patented the saying, “Be Big Time Where You Are!” Wilks went on to say, “As I moved throughout the ranks and became a head coach in the National Football League, I never left those humble beginnings. A lot of young coaches and people, in general, want to move up quickly and fast, and I remind them to “Be Time Where You Are.” In other words, take care of what God has given you, be worthy of that, and show thy self-approved, and now he will order your steps. And that’s always been my thing, and I never get caught up exactly where I am and just try to stay in the moment.”

Transitioning to the NFL, Wilks's impact as a defensive guru was felt across the league, as he mentored standout players and orchestrated formidable defensive units. Drawing from his experiences coaching standout athletes like Josh Norman, he underscores the significance of mentorship and personal development in nurturing success both on and off the field. "Building relationships is paramount," Wilks emphasizes. "Whether on the field or off it, establishing trust and rapport with players is essential to unlocking their full potential." He noted that the transition of the type of player Josh Norman was with him in Carolina versus in Washington with the Commanders. Wilks had a relationship that allowed him to showcase the best in Norman both on and off the field.

As an interim coach for the Carolina Panthers, Wilks's leadership prowess shone brightly, guiding the team to a commendable .500 coaching record amidst adversity. "It's about fostering a culture of accountability, commitment, and trust," Wilks explains. ACT as a Champion - A-Accountability, C-Commitment, T-Trust. “I try to ask my coaches and players to ACT as a Champion!” When players buy into the team's vision and support one another, remarkable things can happen. “We must surrender our individual me for a bigger we! “There was an analogy I created with a green tomato or ripe tomato. We always want to be green because once you become ripe, you become rotten. And so, there’s always a development and yearning to want to grow and get better for the team as well as myself,” said Wilks.

Beyond the gridiron, Wilks's commitment to service and philanthropy is evident through initiatives like the 3T Foundation, which aims to empower youth through education and mentorship. "The 3T Foundation is a labor of love," Wilks shares. "It's about equipping young people with the tools they need to succeed in life, both on and off the field." 3T Foundation stands for Teach, Train, Task – Teach for knowledge. Train for excellence. So the youth can be prepared for the Tasks they will be faced with daily. “I have always had a passion for the city of Charlotte and this community, especially the West Side, where I grew up, and I am going to West Charlotte High School.” The foundation works with Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Schools each academic year, and this year, they will provide six (6) $5,000 scholarships to deserving high school seniors. Learn more about his foundation at: https://www.3tfoundation.info/

Wilks's dedication to education extends to his alma mater, Appalachian State University, where he established a scholarship to support student-athletes from underrepresented backgrounds. "Education is the great equalizer," Wilks asserts. "I'm passionate about creating opportunities for deserving students to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact in their communities." He went on to say, “I had a conversation with my wife, General Manager, and I told her this has been on my heart, and we worked with the Director of Athletics, and we partnered together to come up with this scholarship, the Steve and Marcia Wilks Post-Graduate Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship.” This yearly scholarship will be provided to one Mountaineer student-athlete from an underrepresented population who is pursuing a graduate degree at Appalachian State University. Each year's recipient will also be provided an internship within the athletics department that will focus on developing transferable skills, networking, mentorship, and professional development. The internship also includes assisting with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Amidst the rigors of coaching, Wilks finds solace in simple pleasures like enjoying pizza, Doritos, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. "Sometimes, it's the little things that bring the most joy," Wilks quips with a smile. "Whether it's game day or film night, indulging in my favorite snacks is a small but meaningful ritual."

If not for football, Wilks envisions himself as a life coach or motivational speaker, channeling his passion for leadership and mentorship into empowering others. "Serving others is my calling," Wilks affirms. "Whether on the sidelines or in the community, I'm committed to making a difference and inspiring others to reach their full potential."

In parting, Wilks offers sage advice to aspiring coaches and leaders, urging them to embrace hard work, dedication, and patience on their journey to success. "Stay focused, stay disciplined, and stay true to yourself," Wilks advises. "Success is not just about wins and losses; it's about making a positive impact and leaving a lasting legacy."

As the interview draws to a close, Wilks expresses gratitude to East Stonewall A.M.E. Zion Church and his supporters, acknowledging their role in shaping his journey. "I am who I am because of the faith, family, and community that have supported me," Wilks concludes. “It’s nothing more important to me than my faith and family and the brand that I represent. I just know you guys, The A.M.E. Zion Church, are a part of that brand. You guys have helped me, particularly this actual church, developing me and giving me the skills and fortitude to do things that I am doing; thank you again, A.M.E. Zion!"

In a world often defined by competition and adversity, Coach Wilks's story serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration, reminding us of the transformative power of faith, family, and football. Visit AMEZTV for an inside look at his journey and watch the full interview and exclusive footage of Coach Wilks.

Coach Steve Wilks, San Francisco 49ers, East Stonewall A.M.E. Zion Church, Carolina Panthers, NFL, Johnson C. Smith University


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