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Steve Wilks
Assistant Head Coach/Secondary
College:
Appalachian State
Experience:
11

Bio

COACHING
Steve Wilks is in his fifth year as Carolina's secondary coach and second as assistant head coach, helping head coach Ron Rivera with day-to-day operations including scheduling and planning.

In 2015, Wilks' secondary was instrumental in helping the Panthers advance to Super Bowl 50 and lead the NFL in interceptions (24), total takeaways (39), points off turnovers (148) and turnover differential (+20). Despite losing starting cornerback Charles Tillman and top nickel back Bene Benwikere to injuries, Carolina limited opposing quarterbacks to an NFL-low 73.5 passer rating and ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense, joining Seattle as one of two teams to field a top 10 defense each of the last four seasons. Seven different defensive backs tallied interceptions for the Panthers.

Including the postseason, free agent safety Kurt Coleman tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Fourth-year cornerback Josh Norman established career highs with 15 passes defensed and four interceptions, including two pick-sixes, to earn first-team All-Pro honors and his first career Pro Bowl selection.

In 2014, Wilks' secondary helped the Panthers rank 10th in the NFL in total defense. Norman registered then career-highs with two interceptions and 11 passes defensed. In their rookie seasons, Benwikere and safety Tre Boston emerged as starters the final four games, during which the Panthers rated sixth in the NFL in passing defense. Boston then picked off a pass in Carolina's 27-16 NFC Wild Card win over Arizona as the defense limited the Cardinals to an NFL postseason record 78 net yards.

During the 2013 season, Wilks directed a unit that helped the Panthers finish second in the NFL in total defense and sixth in passing defense. Defensive backs were responsible for 16 interceptions, including a team-record four returned for touchdowns. Carolina also limited opponents to an 81.4 passer rating, which ranked 10th in the NFL. Wilks' secondary received significant contributions from rookies and veterans alike. Undrafted rookie cornerback Melvin White started the last 10 games and posted two interceptions with one touchdown, while safety Robert Lester, another undrafted rookie, tallied three interceptions. Safety Mike Mitchell was one of two players in the NFL with at least four interceptions, three sacks and two forced fumbles, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned his only two interceptions for touchdowns.

Despite dealing with injuries throughout the season in 2012, the pass defense under Wilks improved from 24th in 2011 to 13th en route to a ranking of 10th in total defense. The group received contributions from a number of young players, as two rookies and two second-year players combined to start 22 games. The secondary propelled the Panthers to a first-place finish in the NFL in average yards after catch, allowed the third fewest pass plays of 20 or more yards and returned three interceptions for touchdowns.

Wilks, a Charlotte native, returned home from the San Diego Chargers, where he oversaw the secondary from 2009-11. He added the assistant head coach title in 2011. Prior to Wilks' arrival, San Diego ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass but stood 11th in 2009, first in 2010 and 13th in 2011. In 2010, Wilks and then San Diego defensive coordinator Rivera formed a formidable duo when the Chargers led the NFL in total defense and pass defense. San Diego limited opponents to a 76.2 passer rating, fourth lowest in the league, and surrendered 18 touchdown passes, fifth fewest in the NFL.

Wilks came to San Diego after three seasons as defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears. From 2006-08, cornerbacks and safeties accounted for 42 of the team's 62 interceptions, including 16 in 2006 when Chicago - with Rivera as defensive coordinator - led the NFL with 44 takeaways and advanced to Super Bowl XLI. The Bears' defensive backs also forced 20 fumbles during Wilks' tenure, the most in the NFL in that span.

Before joining the Bears, Wilks coached 11 seasons on the college level, working as a defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and head coach. He went to Washington as defensive backs coach in 2005 from Notre Dame, where he helped the Irish earn a bowl bid in his only season in 2004.

Previously, Wilks was the defensive backs coach at Bowling Green State University in 2003, producing an All-American cornerback, and was co-defensive coordinator at East Tennessee State in 2002 for a unit that featured three defensive backs who earned All-Southern Conference honors. He also had one-year stints as the defensive backs coach at Appalachian State in 2001 and Illinois State in 2000.

Wilks was head coach at Savannah State in 1999, steering the team to a 5-6 record, after serving as the team's defensive coordinator from 1997-98. In 1998, Wilks earned Division II defensive coordinator of the year as the Tigers led the nation in total defense. Wilks began his coaching career as defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte in 1995.

PLAYING AND PERSONAL
A product of West Charlotte High School, Wilks played defensive back at Appalachian State from 1987-91 and finished his career with 103 tackles, four interceptions and four blocked kicks. He attended training camp with the Seattle Seahawks in 1992 and played defensive back and wide receiver for the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League in 1993. Wilks graduated from Appalachian State with a degree in communications.

HISTORY
Defensive back: Appalachian State 1987-91. Pro defensive back/wide receiver: Charlotte Rage (AFL) 1993. College coach: Johnson C. Smith 1995-96, Savannah State 1997-99 (head coach 1999), Illinois State 2000, Appalachian State 2001, East Tennessee State 2002, Bowling Green State University 2003, Notre Dame 2004, Washington 2005. Pro coach: Chicago Bears 2006-08, San Diego Chargers 2009-11, joined Panthers in 2012.

COACHING
Steve Wilks is in his fifth year as Carolina's secondary coach and second as assistant head coach, helping head coach Ron Rivera with day-to-day operations including scheduling and planning.

In 2015, Wilks' secondary was instrumental in helping the Panthers advance to Super Bowl 50 and lead the NFL in interceptions (24), total takeaways (39), points off turnovers (148) and turnover differential (+20). Despite losing starting cornerback Charles Tillman and top nickel back Bene Benwikere to injuries, Carolina limited opposing quarterbacks to an NFL-low 73.5 passer rating and ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense, joining Seattle as one of two teams to field a top 10 defense each of the last four seasons. Seven different defensive backs tallied interceptions for the Panthers.

Including the postseason, free agent safety Kurt Coleman tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Fourth-year cornerback Josh Norman established career highs with 15 passes defensed and four interceptions, including two pick-sixes, to earn first-team All-Pro honors and his first career Pro Bowl selection.

In 2014, Wilks' secondary helped the Panthers rank 10th in the NFL in total defense. Norman registered then career-highs with two interceptions and 11 passes defensed. In their rookie seasons, Benwikere and safety Tre Boston emerged as starters the final four games, during which the Panthers rated sixth in the NFL in passing defense. Boston then picked off a pass in Carolina's 27-16 NFC Wild Card win over Arizona as the defense limited the Cardinals to an NFL postseason record 78 net yards.

During the 2013 season, Wilks directed a unit that helped the Panthers finish second in the NFL in total defense and sixth in passing defense. Defensive backs were responsible for 16 interceptions, including a team-record four returned for touchdowns. Carolina also limited opponents to an 81.4 passer rating, which ranked 10th in the NFL. Wilks' secondary received significant contributions from rookies and veterans alike. Undrafted rookie cornerback Melvin White started the last 10 games and posted two interceptions with one touchdown, while safety Robert Lester, another undrafted rookie, tallied three interceptions. Safety Mike Mitchell was one of two players in the NFL with at least four interceptions, three sacks and two forced fumbles, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned his only two interceptions for touchdowns.

Despite dealing with injuries throughout the season in 2012, the pass defense under Wilks improved from 24th in 2011 to 13th en route to a ranking of 10th in total defense. The group received contributions from a number of young players, as two rookies and two second-year players combined to start 22 games. The secondary propelled the Panthers to a first-place finish in the NFL in average yards after catch, allowed the third fewest pass plays of 20 or more yards and returned three interceptions for touchdowns.

Wilks, a Charlotte native, returned home from the San Diego Chargers, where he oversaw the secondary from 2009-11. He added the assistant head coach title in 2011. Prior to Wilks' arrival, San Diego ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass but stood 11th in 2009, first in 2010 and 13th in 2011. In 2010, Wilks and then San Diego defensive coordinator Rivera formed a formidable duo when the Chargers led the NFL in total defense and pass defense. San Diego limited opponents to a 76.2 passer rating, fourth lowest in the league, and surrendered 18 touchdown passes, fifth fewest in the NFL.

Wilks came to San Diego after three seasons as defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears. From 2006-08, cornerbacks and safeties accounted for 42 of the team's 62 interceptions, including 16 in 2006 when Chicago - with Rivera as defensive coordinator - led the NFL with 44 takeaways and advanced to Super Bowl XLI. The Bears' defensive backs also forced 20 fumbles during Wilks' tenure, the most in the NFL in that span.

Before joining the Bears, Wilks coached 11 seasons on the college level, working as a defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and head coach. He went to Washington as defensive backs coach in 2005 from Notre Dame, where he helped the Irish earn a bowl bid in his only season in 2004.

Previously, Wilks was the defensive backs coach at Bowling Green State University in 2003, producing an All-American cornerback, and was co-defensive coordinator at East Tennessee State in 2002 for a unit that featured three defensive backs who earned All-Southern Conference honors. He also had one-year stints as the defensive backs coach at Appalachian State in 2001 and Illinois State in 2000.

Wilks was head coach at Savannah State in 1999, steering the team to a 5-6 record, after serving as the team's defensive coordinator from 1997-98. In 1998, Wilks earned Division II defensive coordinator of the year as the Tigers led the nation in total defense. Wilks began his coaching career as defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte in 1995.

PLAYING AND PERSONAL
A product of West Charlotte High School, Wilks played defensive back at Appalachian State from 1987-91 and finished his career with 103 tackles, four interceptions and four blocked kicks. He attended training camp with the Seattle Seahawks in 1992 and played defensive back and wide receiver for the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League in 1993. Wilks graduated from Appalachian State with a degree in communications.

HISTORY
Defensive back: Appalachian State 1987-91. Pro defensive back/wide receiver: Charlotte Rage (AFL) 1993. College coach: Johnson C. Smith 1995-96, Savannah State 1997-99 (head coach 1999), Illinois State 2000, Appalachian State 2001, East Tennessee State 2002, Bowling Green State University 2003, Notre Dame 2004, Washington 2005. Pro coach: Chicago Bears 2006-08, San Diego Chargers 2009-11, joined Panthers in 2012.