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September 23, 2013

Wilcox salutes memory of deceased mother, impresses Kiffin and teammates in first start at safety

Rookie J.J. Wilcox pointed to the sky as he was introduced with the starters Sunday. It was his first NFL start, and he was sure his mother was watching.

“That’s what my point was for,” Wilcox said. “Towards her. She truly is missed.”

Wilcox might have made his first start before Sunday, replacing Will Allen in the lineup, if not for his mother’s passing last month.

Marshell Wilcox died during training camp, with Wilcox missing 11 days of camp, including a preseason game.

“He did a nice job,” defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. “He had a setback with his mother, which is totally understandable. He’d had a good off-season. In Oxnard, he played pretty well. But he missed some time and it’s hard. Will Allen has done a nice job. We respect the job Will Allen has done. Will’s been a great help to the young guys. But we wanted to get J.J. out there, because he does have a lot of ability. If you don’t play those young guys, you’ll never know. Don’t put them out there in the 10th game of the year. Find out if they can play.”

Wilcox had played only six defensive snaps this season, all in the Giants game, until starting at strong safety Sunday. His father was watching from the stands as Wilcox played nearly the entire game, until the starters departed, and made three tackles.

Wilcox had an interception return for 23 yards, but defensive tackle Jason Hatcher was called for roughing the passer.

“He’s a good player,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “He’s been showing it all camp that he’s got ability to find the football. He can hit. He knows how to play the game. It’s just getting him some experience, which I think him out there will only help him.”

-- Charean Williams

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