One other thing about Wilson made people nervous. In '85 he learned that he had diabetes. He lost 25 pounds. His career seemed over. He battled back, but the Vikings were still jittery. The questions were finally answered, first in '87, when Wilson, the job finally his after Kramer was injured, came within a heartbeat of the Super Bowl, and then in '88, when he put together a Pro Bowl year. After that season, though, the injuries started coming—broken finger, dislocated thumb, separated shoulder. When Dennis Green arrived as coach in 1992, he saw a 33-year-old quarterback who had taken too many hits. Wilson was cut.
Six days later he was a Falcon, playing behind Chris Miller and Billy Joe Tolliver at first, and then making another marvelous comeback last December, when his three starts produced 1,040 passing yards and 10 TDs. "I felt great," says Wilson. "I'd built myself up in the weight room in Atlanta. There's no wear and tear.
"I'd told the people there, 'I want to end up here. I don't want to be a football gypsy.' They told me I'd compete for the job in '93, but in their hearts they knew Chris was the starter if he was healthy."
Wilson took advantage of the new free-agency system last winter and made a trip to New Orleans. If you come, the Saints told him, Hebert is gone. So Wilson went—for a three-year, $6 million package. "We'd always liked Wade," says Saint coach Jim Mora. "He'd played well against us. He's gutsy and smart, with a great work ethic."
Last Saturday, when the 49ers worked out in the dome, San Francisco coach George Seifert was asked about Wilson. "If we didn't have to play against him," Seifert said, "I'd say it's kind of neat, seeing a guy who appears to be going down do well."
Kind of neat indeed.