State of the Hogs: Opportunity, Part II

Tyler Wilson has a strong inner circle, including his father Don and Greenwood coach Rick Jones. This is the second part of a two-part series.

Don Wilson remembers the day he thought football was about to take a big leap forward in Greenwood. The school board was about to hire Barry Lunney, Sr., as football coach.

"At least that's what I thought," Wilson said. "I thought we were going to steal Barry from Southside. He was going into a meeting at the administration building to talk to the school board. I thought they were about to give him the job."

That's when football fortunes at Greenwood High School changed. Wilson's son Tyler, now the Arkansas quarterback, would be among the many to benefit when the Bulldogs hired Rick Jones as head football coach.

"Tyler and I were hiding in the parking lot to see who was going in to see the school board," Don Wilson said. "We saw Barry. We were all waving the flag for him. We thought they were about to announce him as our new coach. We all knew Barry was a fantastic coach. He coached the spread and passing."

Tyler was the eighth grade quarterback at Greenwood. Don thought Lunney would be perfect. "But that's not what was going on," Don said. "Barry was there to speak for Rick Jones. They were very close and he wanted Greenwood to bring Rick from Broken Arrow."

As they say, the rest is history. Greenwood hired Jones. He gave them what they wanted, more spread passing game, much like Ronnie Peacock had installed there. And the Bulldogs haven't stopped winning since. Wilson started his last two seasons at quarterback and was part of three straight high school championship teams.

"Rick has been great for our community and great for Tyler," Don Wilson said. "He has mentored all of the boys here, not just Tyler. He installed work ethic here. The Fast Dogs Program that he put in for our summer conditioning has made hard work a way of life in this program.

"Rick put it all together for us. We all feel like Rick was sent from Heaven. He's part of our family inner circle and so much of what Tyler has accomplished should be credited to Rick Jones."

Tyler passed for more than 8,000 yards and 93 touchdowns in his prep career, running the Jones spread to perfection. And the way Jones has helped Tyler hasn't stopped since he's moved on to the Razorbacks.

"We call on Rick in tough times," Don said. "There were some of those during Tyler's freshman and sophomore years. When Tyler needed someone to talk to him, Rick would get in the car and drive to Fayetteville, take him dinner. Watch video. Visit."

Wilson described his journey to Ft. Smith to play basketball for legendary Westark coach Gayle Kaundart. He married Greenwood native Suzy Burgess and that firmly planted the Wilson family in that community. Don Wilson has worked at Pradco, a Ft. Smith fishing tackle manufacturer for the last 28 years.

But Greenwood is home. That's where they raised Tyler and daughter Allie, now a freshman tennis player at UA-Ft. Smith, previously Westark.

"This has been a great place for us," Don Wilson said. "You look at what we have here, the inner circle that I call it. It's Rick Jones and it's Suzy's dad, Dr. Jim Burgess. And I think you'd also put Brooks Coatney, Tyler's cousin, in that inner circle."

Burgess is a Greenwood dentist. Coatney is high school head coach at Van Buren. Tyler talks about visits with both and some legendary golf matches with Coatney at Eagle Crest.

There is little doubt that Don Wilson is a heavy influence. He raised Tyler with a firm hand. It came natural. It's the way his father raised him in Fontana, Calif., a tough steel town in the San Bernardino Valley.

"I did grow up in a tough place," Wilson said. "I was a basketball player. That's what my dad wanted me to be. I was too skinny for football, but I always wished I'd played there. The Fontana Steelers won a bunch of state titles. I wanted to play there, but my dad made me stick to basketball. I think I could have played receiver. All my buddies were football players and all very tough. It's the way it was there.

"My dad was tough on me. He didn't allow any nonsense. No horsing around. That's the way I was raised and that's how I raised Tyler. That's the only way I knew. My dad was pretty tough. I don't mean he beat me. He just made sure I did what was right. No doubt, he was tough on me."

So it was the same in Greenwood.

"It was," Wilson said. "But we played all of the sports. Tyler did all of it. But he was always a quarterback. He was the quarterback when he began football in the first grade at the Ft. Smith Boys Club. It's been his only position."

Don Wilson sees a sparkle in his son's eyes as the season opener progresses. He has never seen him more excited or having more fun.

"I think he's having the time of his life," Don Wilson said. "He loves what he's doing. He grew up wanting to do this. He wanted to come back for this season and play with these guys with these coaches. He loves Paul Petrino. They have really connected. It's been a solid bond, really tight."

Don Wilson likes to talk about opportunity instead of excuses. He sees this as one more in a long series of opportunities for his family and Tyler. All of them have worked out so well that he isn't going to change his tune now.

"It's a great opportunity for Tyler," Don Wilson said. "I think it's going to be a fun year. There is a great opportunity out there."

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