Andrew Wilson headlines big day for Hoosier walk-ons #iufb

WEST LAFAYETTE — Andrew Wilson didn’t fight back when the foot met his face.

No, instead of demonstrably reacting to getting intentionally stepped on during the third quarter Saturday, Wilson picked himself off the ground and punched the ball into the end zone.

It was a big day for the Indiana running back, who was one of a handful of current and former walk-on players who made major contributions toward Indiana’s 54-36 victory over Purdue. And if proving himself against his team’s in-state rival wasn’t enough motivation, getting stepped on certainly was.

“When that happened, I knew not to retaliate because I was pretty sure the ref saw it,” Wilson said. “In the back of my head, it was a surprise. You just have to move on to the next play.”

He was correct.

After Wilson’s three-yard carry pushed Indiana to the Purdue 7-yard line, Boilers safety Leroy Clark was caught stepping on Wilson’s face mask. Clark was penalized for a personal foul and, three plays later, Wilson dove over a pile for a one-yard touchdown run — the second of his career.

Wilson, who played high school ball at Columbus East, set personal highs with 15 carries for 52 yards on Saturday. After the game, he was among the last Hoosiers to leave the visitor’s locker room at Ross-Ade Stadium, carrying a game program that may one day serve as a keepsake from his special day.

“It’s awesome. It’s crazy,” Wilson said. “I’ve been coming to the Bucket games my whole life. I’ve been an IU fan my whole life. It’s just awesome coming out here, and especially playing at Purdue. Honestly, I’m kind of at a loss for words. It was a great team effort and a great team win. It’s pretty sweet.”

Building a decent walk-on program has been part of Indiana coach Kevin Wilson’s goals since taking the IU job for the 2011 season. He was, after all, a former walk-on offensive lineman at North Carolina and he recognizes the value that comes from giving motivated kids an opportunity to work.

Behind the scenes, Andrew Wilson has been one of those players. So, too, is Andre Booker, who scored on a career-long 72-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Last year, Booker was one of the few walk-ons to earn a temporary scholarship, but that opportunity wasn’t available this fall. Indiana needed Booker’s scholarship elsewhere and the senior was left to pay his own way.

But during the last two weeks, Booker has made his presence known. His big play Saturday came seven days after he caught a 59-yard touchdown from Nate Sudfeld at Maryland.

“That kid, I’m so proud of him,” Sudfeld said. “To not be on scholarship right now — he’s kind of been on and off scholarship — and to keep battling as hard as he can, he’s what this program is about. Guys who don’t get as much recognition, or don’t even have a scholarship, but still fight and play as hard as they can.

“He probably deserves (a scholarship) more than some of the other guys we have, but he doesn’t complain and keeps fighting. For a guy like him, or an Andrew Wilson, who is in the same boat, I’m so proud of those guys.”

Mitchell Paige knows the feeling, well. Paige earned a scholarship during the summer despite having never caught a single pass over his first two seasons. This year, Paige has turned him into one of Sudfeld’s favorite targets and arguably IU’s most reliable receiver.

To see Wilson, or Booker, or Ricky Brookins, or Ben Bach — any of them — make a play brings its own rewarding feeling.

“We’ve all been waiting, biding our time and biding our time,” Paige said. “It’s really cool that some success is coming to a lot of these guys. It’s a really cool group of people.”

6 comments

  1. It was good to see a lot of players contributing to this win. Especially with the constant dirty play of Purdue to see our players maintain their composure and play hard but fair. I am glad so many different players scored in this game especially the walk-ons that scored that come from the State of Indiana.

  2. Damn proud of Wilson recognizing and utilizing the benefit of developing walk-ons to help build the program. They add much more than we see from practices to scout teams, depth chart, ST’s and on to game day headlines.

  3. v13, It was hard not to notice the difference between the dirty play of the Boils and the composure of the Hoosiers. Purdue might have been able to make a game of it had not their players been constantly taking cheap shots. The announcers even got in the act by asking how the coach would deal with those guys considering it was their last game of the season.

    The behaved as if they were the old Miami teams only without the talent.

  4. I found myself wondering yesterday whether the cheap shots were not a quasi-sanctioned attempt to trigger IU into losing its composure. The punch thrown on the sidelines play was particularly egregious.

  5. Andrew Wilson, thanks for displaying such exemplary behavior in the face of adversity. You’re a good representative for IU and the standards Coach Wilson is establishing for our football program. Well done!

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