STORY BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTO BY DEB SCALLY
Below begins a two-part series on WillCo Football player Jariel Wilson.
Wilson was chosen as our Player of the Year for his electrifying on-field play in 2018 and for his sterling reputation off the field as a leader for the Centennial High School football program.
This is Part One of his story, an outside view of a special young man from one of his coaches. It focuses on Wilson, a drive and a sled.
At the close of Centennial senior and former running back Jariel Wilson’s junior year, he experienced something no football players want to face.
Losing in the postseason.
The Cougars suffered an early playoff exit to Cane Ridge, ending the team’s 2017 campaign. Soon after that tough outcome, Wilson gave Centennial’s strength and conditioning/defensive line coach Troy Brewer a call.
“[He said] ‘Coach, I really don’t want this feeling back,'” Brewer recalled in the conversation. “[I responded], ‘Okay, cool, what are you going to do?'”
“Whatever you come up with,” he said Wilson replied.
Brewer’s challenge? Wilson was to run 10 50-yard sleds (aided by big tired with plates to add weight) from sideline to sideline, and 10 more a big hill.
“Alright…that’s whole a lot,” he said Wilson retorted.
Brewer reminded the young athlete that it’s those extra reps that separate some from others in the grand scheme of things.
Wilson got it.
Brewer made a trip to the Centennial athletic facilities that Saturday morning after the playoff loss, and there was Wilson, in the midst of immediately taking Brewer’s advice to heart.
“When I pulled up, I could just see the top of his head going back and forth on the game field,” he said.
After that, the hill was to be conquered. Then, Wilson and Brewer met, and the former asked how he could get his teammates involved in the improvement plan.
This is just a microcosm of who Wilson is, and what Brewer has seen from the running back over the years.
Wilson and Brewer have had a special relationship with each other since the two collided in the Cougars’ football program.
When Brewer met Wilson during the latter’s sophomore year, Wilson told the coach to help him to get out there and do some great things.
From then on, it was multiple calls, texts and other correspondents between the coach and player about any myriad of things.
“You could just tell, coming in, he was a different type of kid,” Brewer said. “[Jariel] always was eager to do something, to press forward, and help himself grow into what he has become.”
Brewer said it didn’t matter the size of the question or call of the challenge. Wilson was motivated to be the best he could be. And that went well beyond the gridiron. It also went to the classroom, where “Bs” weren’t good enough when “As” were obtainable.
“Whatever he felt like he was slacking in…he always wanted to find a way, to figure out a way excel and get above wherever he was.”
Brewer has watched Wilson grow from a promising sophomore to a college-bound senior, as the running back is off to play at Austin Peay in the fall of 2019.
“It’s massive,” he said of Wilson’s growth. “You see where his body has developed. You see where his thought process has developed. You see where he’s matured on and off the field. It’s really great to see him do that.”
Brewer likened Wilson’s development to that of someone learning how to ride a bike. It’s those eureka moments that excite the coach, those moments where the light bulb goes off, the training wheels are no longer needed and the progress has been made.
“It’s something beautiful to see,” he said.
Brewer feels that Wilson’s hard-nose running ability and knack of leading others will be examples to set for future Cougars at the graduating senior’s position.
“I feel like he set the bar pretty high, especially for guys that play running back” Brewer said. “I’ve never seen a kid that runs as hard as him.
“He’s just something to watch.”
Let’s go back to that little bit that sets people apart Brewer told Wilson about after the Cane Ridge playoff loss.
He recalled another story where Wilson was trying hard to land a 4.3 40-yard dash time to help bolster his college prospects. He kept getting close, but to no avail. But he kept working at it.
At a key Austin Peay camp, Brewer, his regular timekeeper, recalled the running back finally landing the time he desired, and Wilson’s response soon after.
“It felt like the same thing I’ve been doing,” Brewer said Wilson told him.
“It’s different,” Brewer replied to him with a smile. “Something was different.”
The difference was the hard work, but the worker was always the same. The outcome was new, not the one making it so.
Sometimes, going the distance and standing out means staying where (and who) you are.
For Wilson, who he is drives what he’s able to accomplish.
That’s why he’s our WillCo Football 2018 Player of the Year.
Part Two of our WillCo Football Player of the Year Series on Jariel Wilson will post Friday, Dec. 28, featuring a conversation with Wilson and Centennial head coach Matt Kriesky.