Skip to main content

Antoine Wesley Shines in Homecoming Opportunity

With Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins out, Antoine Wesley has taken full advantage of his opportunities.

As the Arizona Cardinals began preparations for their road trip to Dallas to do battle with the Cowboys, much of the media attention surrounded quarterback Kyler Murray and his homecoming to the state of Texas. 

If you've lived under a rock, Murray once dominated the landscape of high-school football in the state, leading Allen High School to a 43-0 record during his time there, including three straight state championships.

Through his entire football career, Murray had an 8-0 record in Dallas' AT&T Stadium. 

After a 25-22 victory over the Cowboys, Murray's personal record extended to 9-0. Murray finished by completing 26-of-38 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns on the day. 

It was a successful trip back to Texas for Murray, yet the homecoming for another major contributor may have shined in a brighter light. 

Wide receiver Antoine Wesley has found himself as a big part of Arizona's plans since fellow receiver DeAndre Hopkins fell victim to injury. 

Wesley, a daunting physical presence standing at 6-foot-4, initially made noise during Cardinals training camp over the summer. 

Wesley played under head coach Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech, yet his skills and abilities as a pass-catcher led him to make the initial 53-man roster in what some considered a surprise decision. 

Considerably buried deep in a talented receivers depth chart, Wesley was forced to wait until the later stages of the season to make his impact on Arizona's offense. 

That opportunity came when Hopkins was forced to have MCL surgery that put the superstar out until further notice, requiring guys such as Wesley to step up to the plate in order for the Cardinals to keep their offense churning. 

In Arizona's 22-16 loss to the Colts in Week 16, Wesley found the end zone for the first time in his career. 

In Arizona's 25-22 victory over Dallas on Sunday, Wesley one-upped those efforts by scoring both of the Cardinals' touchdowns. 

The Cibolo Steele High School native made sure to leave his mark in his first appearance back as a pro. 

Wesley's first touchdown came on a well-executed play-action on fourth-and-goal, as Wesley sold himself as a blocker before reversing course and bringing home a gutsy throw by Murray. 

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Wesley's second touchdown was reminiscent of what Hopkins has shown capable of doing on a weekly basis, as he utilized every inch of his body to rise up and come down with a spectacular catch.

Afterward, Wesley was all smiles thanks to his efforts in stopping Arizona's losing streak, which effectively kept the Cardinals' NFC West hopes alive for one last week. 

Kingsbury spoke following the victory and said his confidence in Wesley stemmed from his familiarity.

"I was probably the only one in the building that knew he could. I'm very familiar with him. I watched him in college, nobody could cover him and he just is productive. He was productive in training camp," said Kingsbury. "Anytime he's got an opportunity, he's made plays. And so just to come back here and have him be able to do that in front of his family that was an awesome moment."

Wesley, who dropped a ball on third-and-5 after a missed Cowboys field goal while still trailing 3-0 in the early stages of the game, caught some light-hearted flack from Murray in his post-game press conference. 

"The first attempt (when) I went to him that was incomplete, I felt like he should have caught it," said Murray with a grin on his face. "After I got after him a little bit, we had a little talk. He told me, 'Keep coming after me' and I kept giving him chances and he made up for it, for sure."

Wesley, who finished with a 4-30-2 stat line, said he's feeling more confident and comfortable in his role thanks to the support of his teammates. 

"Really, you know, just having my team come up to me and say we trust you, we got your back. When that ball's in the air they know for sure I'm gonna go get it for them," said Wesley. 

In the days leading up to the game, Wesley said he was looking forward to his return to Texas. 

"Oh yeah, that's pretty much home you know," he said. "(In) college I played there (AT&T Stadium) three times against Baylor so you know it's very home-feeling. I'm really excited to get back home. I got a lot of people, a lot of family coming out there. So it's gonna be fun. A lot of fun." 

Arguments on whether or not Wesley spoke his words into fruition can be had. 

However, Wesley and the rest of the Cardinals depart from a familiar place as winners. 

After a rough three-week stretch leading up to Sunday, that's all Wesley or anybody else could have asked in the team's ultimate goal to position themselves as best as possible for their upcoming playoff push. 

Wesley has now scored three touchdowns in the last two games, showcasing his growth both on and off the field. 

Wesley's undoubtedly come a long way, and perhaps his display in his home state of Texas as an NFL receiver brought his journey full circle.