More interesting facts and stories about Kevin Wilson

Long as at may have been and as big of a block of gray as it created on the backpage of today’s newspaper, today’s feature on Kevin Wilson left out a lot of interesting stories about his background. Some of them were left on the cutting room floor, some of them didn’t even make it that far, but there are few strories, anecdotes and quotes I still want to pass along. Some of them follow.

— Wilson’s love for football came more from the town he was in than his family. His father Clifford, who worked as an electrician, grew up in the hills near Asheville, N.C., and went to a high school that wasn’t big enough for a football team. He played basketball and golf as a high schooler. Clifford’s mother was also a golfer, winning a club championship at one point. Wilson, coincidentally, was also a high school golfer and still plays, though he laments, not as much as he used to. When he was at Oklahoma, he played “speed golf” with Bob Stoops and other members of the coaching staff, playing the university course and sneaking in 3-4 holes (usually not in anything close to order) between meetings and practices.

He also played basketball like his dad. The year his football team won the state championship, his basketball team went winless.

Wilson said he was all-conference though, as a “slow forward.” He played in the post as a 6-footer, but said he shot fadeaways.

— Wilson grew up across the street from his high school, and from the age of around 10, he would usually be found scurrying around the field at the football stadium during practices and in games. His coach, Tom Brown, talked about Wilson going on the field at certain points during breaks in practice and having to kick him off.

The draw to football in Maiden was intense, he said. Sometimes they would draw more fans for games than there were people in town.

“We had three stoplights,” said Wilson’s longtime friend, Butch Parker. “We lived and breathed football. It’s just like (the country song) ‘ Boys of Fall.’ There’s thousands of places that can lay claim to that, but ‘Boys of Fall’ is indicative of Maiden. If you’re male and you’re able to walk at Maiden High School, you played football, or you were expected to play. … If you didn’t, they questioned your gender.”

Maiden’s team was known as the Blue Devils, and they were such a big deal that the First Southern Baptist Church in town was willing to put the words “Go Devils” on the marquee.

— Wilson often talks about the quality of coaches that he worked with. That started all the way back with his little league football coach Marcus Midget. Midget coached Wilson in about sixth grade. He was part of the hall-of-fame at Lenoir Rhyne University, a small school just to the north of Maiden.

Maiden coach Tom Brown was a Lewistown, Pa., native, moved to North Carolina to play at Lenoir Rhyne and never left. He took the head job at Maiden in his early 20s and would coach at Maiden for 35 seasons. He finished with a career record of 352-132-7 as a head coach. His 330 wins at Maiden were the most by any coach at one school in North Carolina history. Brown is a part of four halls of fame as either a coach or athlete.

— Fred Glass often says that Wilson was the valedictorian at Maiden. Friends say that wasn’t technically the case. Wilson had the best grade point average, apparently, but someone else in the class apparently had politics on their side and was actually made valedictorian for graduation. This was as far into the politics of a high school in the 1970s as I was willing to go.

— Apparently in certain parts of North Carolina, it was legal to let students drive school buses and pick up and drop off their fellow students. I’m not making this up. I was completely and totally stunned by this point, and I shudder at the thought of what would’ve happened if they would’ve permitted this at my high school. But Brown swears its the case, and that Wilson was one of the students who drove a bus. They had to have licenses, obviously, and there was a test to qualify to drive. But football practices and other activities often started later for the students who had to drive the bus and return to the school.

— Wilson was unsurprisingly the captain on both sides of the ball for Maiden. He was the center and middle linebacker and was directing traffic on both sides.

“He was absolutely a coach on the field,” said his longtime friend Bruce Ikard, who was the running back on the team. ”

Said Parker: “I heard him say this about Sam Bradford, that he was the smartest kid he ever coached. Well, Kevin was the smartest kid that ever played at Maiden. I hate cliches, but he was truly the coach on the field. He was the center and he was the linebacker. He knew where people needed to go and who they needed to block. He told them and they listened.”

— In the story I mentioned Wilson’s stint at the historically black colleges at Winston Salem Stae and North Carolina A&T. Wilson actually had to teach classes at the time, including physical education and net games (tennis, volleyball, ping-pong, badminton). He credits that period with making him a better recruiter and a better coach, because it forced him to connect with people from much different backgrounds than himself.

“He had an experience that not many people in his position have ever had,” said Bill Hayes, Wilson’s boss at both stops, said. “He learned from the ground up. He learned how to deal with tough kids from tough backgrounds and tough situations. All of them weren’t poor kids. We had some kids from some well-to-do families, but we had enough kids from tough backgrounds, hardcore street kids who wanted an education and wanted to become better football players.”

— Wilson took a job as the athletic director and football coach at Foard High School in Newton, N.C. after two years with Hayes. The school was just a few miles away from Maiden and he had presumed to that point that he wanted to be a high school coach. He found out quickly that he didn’t. He was used to college ball, where all of the athletes are dedicated to their sport as much as they are school and more than anything else. In high school, students have a lot more going on, and he said, just weren’t going to be as passionate as he was at that point.

“You can never go back home,” he said. I’d been in college long enough where it was four years as a player, three as a GA, two as a coach. I had nine years of college experience and I’m going back to high school. I was really miserable. We had a bad team, we didn’t win a game. We should’ve won two. I did a bad job twice. In November, I was begging for my job back.”

Wilson said the move almost cost him the opportunity to work with Randy Walker. Even though they’d coached together at North Carolina, taking a high school coach from outside the state wasn’t an easy political move. Walker offered the job to two other coaches before he got to Wilson.

— Wilson said a big reason he left Northwestern for Oklahoma was because the big city life was getting to him. By the age of 38, the biggest town he’d lived in was Chapel Hill, N.C. He said he made one call to someone who know Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, then Stoops himself.

— I mentioned to story of Wilson calling out the daughter of a Sugar Bowl executive for cheering “Geaux Tigers.” An interesting addtional point that didn’t fit. According to Parker and Brown, he got great response from the fans and other coaches who were at the party. Bob Stoops later went up to him, both Parker and Brown said, and told him, “I couldn’t do that, but I’m damn glad you did.”

— Wilson indicated that perhaps part of the reason he didn’t end up getting head jobs at either Iowa State, Southern Mississippi or East Carolina — he advanced to the interview stage for each — was that he might have shown disinterest in some of those, and perhaps other jobs as well.

“I don’t know where I fit with some guys and sometimes I don’t know whether if it would’ve got really aggressive, would it really have fit me?” Wilson said. “I wasn’t gonna leave — people asked me, ‘Why did you come to Indiana, staying at Oklahoma wasn’t a bad deal. It wasn’t like I was leaving to leave or I had to leave or my time’s up or the clock’s running. You do want to be a head coach. You’re just looking for the right opportunity. Some of those early ones didn’t work out. It’s easy as an assistant to say, ‘Well, I didn’t want it.’ Ehh, is that the case or not? You can say that, but I don’t know. I had guys saying they wanted to pursue some things that I think I hesitated, but I was never offered a job and said I didn’t want it. I was pursuing jobs, some of them I was more interested in, let’s get it. Some I was more hesistant. Maybe that hurts or helps your opportunity. Bottom line, this was the first job that was truly offered.”

The one job he did want, however, was the East Carolina opening between the 2009 and 2010 season. That job went to Ruffin McNeil.

“The biggest hurt that I saw in Kevin was the East Carolina deal,” Parker said. “That was the first one that I saw that was like, ‘Damn, what do I do now? What do I have to do.'”

 

One comment

  1. Football is still a big deal at Maiden. Sounds like Bloomington is a good fit. Greenville, where East Carolina is located, is not as nice a place. I was there for a tournament weekend once and found it pretty depressing.

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