Defender has bounce back season for the Cougars
In football and in life, one event can change the future in an instant.
For redshirt-sophomore cornerback Howard Wilson, that moment was Sept. 26, 2015.
Wilson started every game for the Cougars in 2014 and finished with 48 tackles and three interceptions. He was one of the most impressive freshman on the defense and expectations were sky high entering 2015.
“I didn’t think I was going to be out a whole season,” Wilson said. “When they told me I was going to be out I was upset because I was going to miss getting to play with my teammates.”
Playing the Texas State University Bobcats on a rainy night, the Cougars were in control. Returning from halftime with a 42-7 lead, the team could turn on cruise control and coast to a victory.
Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones dropped back to pass for his team’s opening possession of the third quarter. With pressure coming from the line, Jones misread the defense and threw an errant ball directly into the hands of a waiting Wilson.
The second-year corner reeled in his fourth career interception and began up field to return Jones’ mistaken throw. Running just five yards on slick turf, a defender laid a legal hit at Wilson’s knees, preventing a lengthy return.
“It sucked because I had just got an interception and then I got hurt,” Wilson said.
Wilson got up immediately, celebrated with his teammates and ran to the sideline. On his way back to the bench with the adrenaline of the moment beginning to subside, a limp emerged from the standout sophomore.
Although he did not know it at the time, Wilson’s right ACL was torn on the play and would require a season-ending surgery to repair the damage.
Fortunately, because the injury was sustained early in the season, he was still eligible for a medical-hardship waiver that would allow him to redshirt the rest of season and not lose a year of eligibility.
The DeSoto-native had an uphill battle ahead of him and would have to not only gain his strength and athleticism back, but also earn his spot on the team again.
However, Wilson did not allow his circumstance to impede upon his success.
“After he got hurt, it was a matter of if he could make the cut,” Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said. “But he’s a very talented guy. During the summer and at fall camp he came out and showed us he could play at this level. It was impressive to see a guy get hurt, come back and earn his starting spot.”
Putting in a full offseason of work, Wilson has returned even better than he left a year ago. His recovery came full circle in football’s 40-16 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats earlier this season.
In just his second game of the season because he did not take the field against Lamar University, Wilson looked like his old self by setting a career high with two interceptions in the game.
Like something out of a movie, the fully recovered Wilson helped ice a game in which the Cougars otherwise struggled when he returned his second pick 28-yards for a touchdown. Orlando credits Wilson’s clutch defensive play as what helped the team to seal the deal against the Bearcats.
Many opponents may underestimate him, but he is no stranger to adversity.
“I just want to do it for my brother next to me,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, it’s about helping the team get to a championship. I hope every team sees me as a weak link. They can throw it to my side and I can get more plays and more picks.”