New Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson was born into football. His grandfather, an offensive lineman, played in the Canadian Football League for years. His father, Tim Wilson, played fullback for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints from 1977-1984.
By the time Josh arrived in 1985, his future was pretty much decided.
“It was a blessing,” he said about growing up in a football house. “You get to have a little advantage over some people because you can talk to people that have been there. I knew what it took to get here.”
He sat across from it at dinner every night.
Josh grew up in a close-knit house and idolized his father. “I always had a good relationship with him,” Josh remembered. His father passed away when Josh was 11 years old from a heart attack, but remains a big influence in his life.
One of the many things the Tim taught Josh, was how to put the professional in being a pro football player. When Josh started playing, he wanted to be a running back and wore his father’s No. 45, expecting to be a star.
“He told me, ‘Well, you’re going to get one opportunity and you have to be ready,” Josh said, “‘You always have to be prepared and when you get that opportunity you have to take it.'”
Unfortunately for the young Josh, he wasn’t quite the natural that he had hoped at the running back position: “I didn’t know how to take the handoff, I didn’t know how to do anything,” he said with a laugh. “It was like Forrest Gump–all I knew to do was just run.”
Eventually Josh developed into a good running back, based on athleticism alone. In high school, he took handoffs and scored six straight touchdowns, taking the starting job from his future best friend.
“You only get one opportunity to be great so you have to be ready and prepared,” he said. “Take every day and every moment like it’s the opportunity.”
Just like his father taught him.
Now, everyone has that ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ growing up that isn’t really related, but is still family. For me it was my Aunt Sue and Uncle Bob. For Wilson, it was his father’s best friend, Uncle Earl.
That All-World running back Earl Campbell, for the rest of us.
“I could always call my Uncle Earl,” Josh said. “He taught me how to be tough and be a great football player.”
Josh went to local football powerhouse, DeMatha Catholic High School. What most people don’t realize is that Wilson was a better track star than football player.
“Junior year, I actually quit football, because I thought I was a track star,” he said with a laugh. “I had finished second in nationals over summer and wanted to focus on that.”
How did he come back to the gridiron? “My uncles just laughed at me and said, ‘Get back on the football field.’ It was the best decision they ever made, y’know, for me.”
Now that he’s on the Redskins, he finally feels like he’s home. Josh has always been a Redskins fan, and carried that with him to the pros. “Even being on other team’s around the league, I still would watch and say, ‘Man, come on Redskins!'”
This is Wilson’s third team in three seasons, but no matter where he goes, he has a great support group of family and friends to see him play. Unfortunately, everyone has experience in football and gives him advice.
“All these people are always in my ear,” he said jokingly. “So I can’t get enough coaching.”
For tomorrow’s preseason game against the Steelers, he has only 14 tickets for friends and family. Why not more?
“These things are expensive man,” he said. “I had to cut them off. It’s the preseason! Let me get a couple paychecks first.”
Good luck Josh, and teach the new guys the words to “Hail to the Redskins.”
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