The player introductions on NBC’s Sunday Night Football were never that serious. Some players state their college. Some get creative. Texans safety Ed Reed this year said, “I was born to do this.”
Wilson’s avatar appeared on screen last Sunday and gave a shout out to DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md. He wasn’t being cute.
Wilson lost his father before he made it to DeMatha. He wanted to respect the men that picked up the slack and tolerated an honor student missing classes on tough days to ask them questions.
Bill McGregor, who coached football for a quarter century at DeMatha, former defensive backs coach Bryce Bevill and track and field coach Anthony Bryant all put their stamp on Wilson.
“Those guys changed my life, made me become a man, made me understand that hard work was what was going to get me to this level that I’m at now,” Wilson said.
“DeMatha has had a major impact on my life.”
Creating a football player
Before he offered Wilson a scholarship at the University of Maryland, former Terrapins’ coach Ralph Friedgen called McGregor.
“Ralph wanted to know – he was a little worried about his size, if he was big enough to play for him,” McGregor said. “I told Ralph, ‘Absolutely. What you can’t measure, Ralph, is his attitude, and his intensity and his will to be successful.’”
Wilson is listed at 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds. He’ll give up at least three inches to five of the six Bears’ receivers listed on Chicago’s depth chart.
An NFL gene pool supplies athleticism, but Wilson’s old coach looks at the player as a prime example of a athlete of economy, an individual who examined every aspect of his game to develop his physical advantages.
From the time he was 11, Wilson said he ran track to get better at football.
As a senior at DeMatha in 2002, he was a member of the area’s best 100-meter relay squad that finished third at the Championship of America Penn Relays.
“Being able to get rid of the things like not lifting one leg up all the way or pumping your arms wrong, that gives you another tenth of a second to be faster,” Wilson said.
On the gridiron, Wilson was named a Washington Post All-Met defensive back, picking off five passes, returning kicks and also leading the team at receiver with 27 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns.
“As a wide receiver he would catch the ball and he was tough,” McGregor said. “At corner he was shutdown corner. We would always take him to our opponent’s best receiver… We didn’t have to worry about anything. “
When discussing Wilson, McGregor returned to the same conclusion three times. It’s what he thought when he attended Wilson’s wedding, what he thought when he opened a package from Seattle to find an autographed jersey from Wilson, who was originally a second-round pick of the Seahawks.
“He’s just a good boy,” McGregor said.
When he goes back to DeMatha, Wilson points to the rafters in the basketball gym as a source of personal disappointment.
The Stags won 17 Washington Catholic league titles under McGregor, but not one from 2002, when DeMatha lost to Gonzaga College.
After Wilson graduated, DeMatha won six straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships.
“I can tell each one of those kids the experience and how that has been a memory in my mind that I’ll never forget,” Wilson said. “My senior year I lost my last game in the championship…. I tell them that’s hard to deal with.”
Wilson preaches working toward a legacy. By claiming DeMatha on Sunday Night Football, he’s given DeMatha a source of pride.
“You’re able to go back and tell the kids the story of Josh Wilson, what he did to be successful,” McGregor said. “He was undersized, so he had to figure out how to get a step faster, so he ran track. He chose a position where you can still compete. He went ahead and figured out a way to make himself a better player.
“He always recognized where he came from.”
Tags: DeMatha, DeMatha Catholic, josh wilson, maryland, Ralph Friedgen, redskins, Stags, Terrapins
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