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Not many players can lay claim to the prestigious “Mr. Football Award,” given annually to the top high school player in the state of Texas.
Dontre Wilson, recently added to the practice squad as part of the annual expansion period, is part of the exclusive group that also includes Johnny Manziel and Jacquizz Rodgers.
“In Texas, high school football is like religion,” the new Lions receiver explained.
“It’s like playing in the NFL, CFL, or college. I was very honoured. I had 49 touchdowns in my senior year as a running back. It was bittersweet to later change positions, but I definitely enjoyed that.”
Despite the reputation that comes with such a big honour, Wilson contends he never used it to try and jump the line at a restaurant or get bumped up to first class on an airplane.
“Na, na. I am a real cool, laid back dude. I’m very humble. You wouldn’t know I played football unless I told you,” he said.
That is the perfect mindset for any player getting his first taste of the Canadian game. Wilson, who had never left the United States before reporting to the Lions earlier this month, believes the CFL is tailored to his style of play.
“I’m really just excited to play football again. I’m blessed that BC gave me the opportunity, and I am just living out my dream. I like the bigger field and different rules like the waggle help me. It helps me to be able to get a head start in running my route,” Wilson said.
The number one goal for the organization remains to make the playoffs for a 21st consecutive season. Should that dream officially come to an end after this week, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see a few practice roster players given the opportunity to show their stuff in game action. The chance to suit up is always on his mind.
“Honestly, that’s just how I play and practice all the time,” he explained.
“It could be a walkthrough or something, and you can catch me moving too fast. I always attack everything I do. I don’t like to go at half speed. We’re all out here working together to pursue our football dreams.”
Growing up in DeSoto, a suburb of Dallas, his parents Don Wilson and Robin Summerville allowed him to experiment in football, basketball and track.
“My Dad was very lenient. He told me ‘you never know what sport you’ll like the most or be the best at.’ I tried to play everything and see what I might blossom in.”
Football won out. Wilson went from real life Friday Night Lights to helping Ohio State capture the 2014 National Championship over Oregon.
A triple threat at running back, receiver and special teams, Wilson ended his 45-game Buckeyes career with 2,881 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns.
“I enjoyed all four years and was honoured to play for a legend like (head coach) Urban Meyer,” Wilson said.
“I only lost six games and got me both a national title and two Big 10 championships. There were so many (great moments) and at Ohio State you’re not really glorified for those moments. You’re expected to have them. I definitely cherish it, but I had a lot of them. I can’t even say which one was the best.”
From Mr. Football in Texas to The Ohio State and now the den. If you want the ultimate football pedigree, look no further than Wilson.
If you wanted any indication the Football Gods may still be smiling on this squad, consider the fact Tuesday’s practice took place under perfectly sunny skies, not two hours after your typical, ugly rainy and windy conditions seemed to be plaguing all of the lower mainland for the morning commute.
Defensive lineman Craig Roh, a late scratch Saturday in Winnipeg, watched from the sidelines and continues to recover from his calf injury. Roh hopes to practice before Friday. Kicker Ty Long is feeling better after injuring his shoulder while tying to tackle Kevin Fogg on his punt return touchdown.
If there is one critical battle to win against the Eskimos on Saturday, look no further than the line of scrimmage, particularity when breaking down Edmonton’s defensive front that includes veterans Almondo Sewell and John Chick.
“They have a tremendous defensive line, I think they are five or six deep,” fullback Rolly Lumbala said.
“They can really collapse the pocket, really get after it. It’s going to be on us to make sure that we get some movement, especially in the run game, as well as being able to protect Jon. That’s going to be a great challenge.”
Saskatchewan visits Calgary on Friday night and needs just one more victory or another Lions loss to wrap up the final playoff spot. Lumbala is trying to focus on the main task at hand.
“You have to be positive. We’re still out here, we get to complete, play the game we love and all we can control is Saturday,” he said.
On the way out: Following practice, the club announced the release of linebacker Tony Burnett and defensive back Anthony Gaitor.
Rookie Talk: Earlier on Tuesday, The CFL released the complete list of players eligible to win the league’s Most Outstanding Rookie Award.
We will hand out our own player awards at the end of this season, but among that rookie group we have to throw props out to Awe for his job at weak side linebacker, Long for his improved kicking duties and both Herdman and Chagnon for being forces on special teams. Luke has recently earned some starting reps on the defensive line rotation and should be a major factor in next year’s training camp, along with fellow first round pick Vandervoort.