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Who is Steve Wilks? Charlotte native named Panthers interim coach

Veteran assistant coach Steve Wilks has been tabbed as the Panthers' interim head coach following the firing of Matt Rhule.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With the firing of Matt Rhule, the Carolina Panthers announced that Steve Wilks has been named the interim head coach. 

Wilks, a Charlotte native with NFL head coaching experience, was a logical choice to lead the team after Rhule's firing. Not only has he spent quite a bit of time with the Panthers during his career, but the Panthers' defense has been solid under Wilks, especially in the secondary with second-year cornerback Jaycee Horn showing why he was a first-round pick in 2021. 

Here are some notes about Steve Wilks' background before he coaches his first game as the Panthers' interim leader. 

Wilks graduated from West Charlotte High School in 1987. From there, he played defensive back at Appalachian State. His professional career consisted of one season with the Charlotte Rage in the defunct-Arena Football League. 

RELATED: Sean Payton among favorites to be Panthers coach in 2023

Wilks bounced around the NFL as a head coach for several seasons after spending one season at Savanna State in 1999.

Former Panthers coach Ron Rivera hired Wilks to be his defensive backs coach in Chicago and then again in San Diego, when Rivera became the Chargers' defensive coordinator in 2009. 

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Wilks reunited with Rivera in 2012 on the Panthers' staff. He spent six seasons in Carolina and was promoted to assistant head coach in 2015. He helped guide the Panthers' defense to a 15-1 season that finished in Super Bowl 50. Wilks was promoted to defensive coordinator when Sean McDermott left to be the Bills' head coach. 

He quickly became a hot name in head coaching circles and was hired by the Cardinals in 2018. Wilks' tenure in Arizona was short-lived, as he was fired after one season, which saw the Cardinals finish a league-worst 3-13. 

Wilks eventually made his way back to the Panthers in 2022, taking on the role of defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach.

Steve Wilks will serve as the interim for the rest of the season. Wilks could be in the running for the job permanently.

"Ultimately, he's in a position to be in consideration for that position," Tepper said Monday. "I had a talk with Steve: No promises were made. But obviously, if he does an incredible job, he'd have to be in consideration for that."

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