Inside the Panthers

Charlotte native on Panthers’ staff knows tools of the trade

Carolina Panthers assitant head coach Steve Wilks, left, got nothing but praise from former Panthers star Josh Norman (24), who is now with Washington.
Carolina Panthers assitant head coach Steve Wilks, left, got nothing but praise from former Panthers star Josh Norman (24), who is now with Washington. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Washington cornerback Josh Norman took a couple jabs at Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman this week, but the former Panthers standout had nothing but praise for secondary coach Steve Wilks.

This being Norman, the compliments involved a colorful and superhero-themed analogy.

“Wilks pretty much taught me the importance of using your tools. Pretty much gave me my tool belt,” Norman said Thursday. “So when you look at Batman and his whole little belt, his Batarang he’s got around his little stomach, Wilks gave me my first tool belt. I’ve got to give him credit for that.”

Fans don’t read much about Wilks, the former West Charlotte and Appalachian State defensive back. But he’s given several Panthers cornerbacks their tools, including the rookie tandem of James Bradberry and Daryl Worley.

“He was really good for Josh. He’s been really good for the young corners that we have,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s done a nice jobs with guys like Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell. These are guys that came in and he (helped) develop. He’s done a nice job with the secondary.”

Wilks worked alongside Rivera in San Diego and joined him in Charlotte in 2012. He added the title of assistant head coach before last season.

When Rivera had to leave the team for two days during training camp last year following the death of his brother, he left Wilks in charge. Rivera said Wilks has the makeup to be a defensive coordinator and a head coach, a post he held at Savannah State in 1999.

“He’s solid,” Rivera said. “He handles people very well. I think there’s a style to his coaching that the players respond to very well. I think that’s why over the last few years we’ve been able to piecemeal our secondary, because of the way he handles his guys.”

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