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Wednesday October 10, 2012James Wilson: One Final Stand

Gainesville, Fla.

By Megan Kramper, UF Communications


In the world of intercollegiate athletics, it’s not uncommon for a player to earn a fifth year of eligibility. That’s true, especially in the game of football, when many freshmen redshirt upon arrival on campus to become better athletes and get adjusted to classes, student life and the weight room. That’s exactly what University of Florida senior offensive lineman James Wilson did during the 2007 season when he arrived in Gainesville as a five-star recruit.


Unfortunately, since a total of four knee surgeries and a pair of broken feet sidelined the 6-4, 323-pound lineman, it seemed that last season would be his final one as Gator. So, when he was afforded the opportunity at a sixth year, a year most players with an injury would bend over backwards for, he jumped at the chance.


Wilson petitioned the NCAA for a sixth-year medical hardship waiver and was rewarded with another shot to make his mark on the Gator football program. 


“I’m pretty excited for a second chance to prove what I can do and just really happy to play be playing with this O-line again,” Wilson said. "This is my last chance really to prove it, that I can and show everyone else that I’m just not the hurt James Wilson anymore.”


The St. Augustine, Fla., native has lined up at left guard every game for Orange and Blue this season and is quickly becoming a staple of the offensive line. He has appeared in the last 16 games in a row since the Gators blanked UAB, 39-0, in the second week of the 2011 season.


In what he thought would be his final collegiate season a year ago, Wilson said that he felt like he had some things to prove, that he wanted everyone to remember him not for his injuries but for what he could do on the field.


Wilson said that he feels that he has been able to show what kind of player he can be but, as any true athlete would say, admitted: “I’ve still got a ways to go.”


Despite the assortment of injuries he’s endured and overcome through countless hours of rehabilitation, Wilson said that his body has never felt better. His football career started back in fifth grade and despite the common wear and tear on the body from playing football for over a decade, Wilson is ready for what the rest of the season will bring.


“I’m feeling good and just trying to manage every week,” the Nease High School graduate exclaimed.


It obviously hasn’t always been easy for Wilson, who, as part of dealing with the frustration of injuries and not playing, had serious thoughts about transferring after the Gators captured the National Championship in 2008. Frustrated with not being able to play because of injuries, Wilson thought he might be suited with a change of scenery.


“It was just a bad phase that I was going through and I’m glad I stuck it out,” Wilson said of remaining in Gainesville.


Wilson has seen his share of ups and downs as a Gator, going from celebrating a National Championship with a dramatic victory over Oklahoma in Miami to posting a 7-6 record last season thanks to a 24-17 triumph over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. Boosted by his prior experience, Wilson feels like a player his younger teammates can look up to and come to for advice.


“For someone in my position, it’s my job to have to try and help the younger guys,” Wilson explained about his role coaching up the newcomers. “If all I did was let myself think about the negative things, it would have eaten me all up. If all I had thought about were my injuries and not the bigger picture, I wouldn’t have had the mind-set that got me to where I am today. It’s my responsibility to try and keep everybody in that same frame of mind. I feel by now I can just lead by example and just try to show perseverance in everything that you do.”


A seemingly quiet guy, Wilson knows that it’s his time to be loud and make his mark and this sixth year wearing the Orange and Blue gives him a chance to do so.


He acknowledged that the Gators’ offensive line has gotten better with each game and a focal point for the unit is communication as they move into the heart of the SEC schedule in what will be a challenging month of October against three teams currently ranked in the top six of the polls.


“Every week we try to get better and try to fix the communication errors,” Wilson said. “That’s where we know a lot of the breakdowns come from because we are physical and we know what we can do basically anything we set our minds to.”

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