More Than Just a Football Player

Charles Barkley once said on national television that he was not a role model for young kids. While some may chose to not use their high public profile and athletic success to help inspire young kids to be better, some have recognized how they can use what they've been given for a greater purpose.

Oftentimes when a young person - still too young to vote - is thrown into the national limelight, two different personal philosophies are laid at their feet. They can take upon the Barkley approach, or they can accompany their success with exemplary values and show their good works on a publicized platform for the greater good.

For one football player from small town Spanish Fork, Utah, the second philosophy is the one he prefers.

"The way that you live being a football player can have an influence on younger kids," said Richard Wilson. "There are little kids that come up to me all the time. Kids in my ward come up to me and think I'm really cool because I have all these offers, which is kind of funny. They always like to talk to me and think I'm really cool, but in reality I have to be a role model to them and be an example. I have to live my life right knowing that it could affect them in a positive way to do the same."

Many of those young kids in Wilson's ward know all about the success he's enjoyed on the football field. They also know that one day he will be catching footballs not just during games televised instate, but during games televised across the country.

"I think the way you live your life and how you help others by doing service for people, as someone who is playing football at the next level, can be a good influence," Wilson said. "The nature of a person is more important than anything else. The way people see you through the way you live your life can be an important influence to others."

Wilson's first opportunity to soon be in a position of great influence came via a scholarship offer from BYU, his first offer. After BYU offered him, the floodgates opened and many other schools followed suit.

"It's kind of crazy that it's all happened like this," Wilson said. "You get that first offer and it just keeps coming and hasn't stopped since then."

The most recent scholarship offers for Wilson's services have come from Washington, Boise State and Stanford, bringing his current total to nine offers from Division I colleges. His other offers have come from BYU, Utah, Miami, Arizona, Tennessee and LSU.

"I've already been up to Boise State and was up there for a camp already, so I've already got a good feel about them," said Wilson. "I don't know too much about Washington. I just know they're in the Pac-10, and Stanford is Stanford, where you can get a great education really. I'll look at all the options, and that's kind of what I'm doing right now. I'm just kind of going over some of the pros and cons of everywhere and how I'm going to fit in and how I'm going to play at those schools. It's kind of crazy."

Along with those nine offers, coaches from USC and UCLA have recently requested film to further evaluate the nation's sixth-ranked tight end. Despite all that attention from some very prominent football programs, Wilson is very high on BYU.

"BYU is close to home, and just everything about it … yeah, they're top," said Wilson. "I think the same thing as Manti [Te'o] does: it really comes down to a place where you feel comfortable. You can't go to a place where you don't fit in or are not liked for four or five years while you're there. You can't do that, so I'm just trying to see everything and get a feel of everything before I make my decision."

However, Wilson has yet to decide which of the schools that have offered him are currently in his top five.

"Hopefully sometime soon I'll have a top five, but I'm going to wait for a little while longer just to see how everything works out and if anything new comes in," said Wilson.

Wilson plays on both sides of the ball in high school, and possesses the athleticism and build to play different positions on both sides of the ball at the college level if he so chooses. Aside from having the ability to play tight end, the 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound athlete could also play linebacker, but will be groomed as a tight end at the next level.

"I was at BYU's summer camp for a few days but didn't really do a whole lot of tight end drills," said Wilson. "I didn't really do a lot of one-on-one tight end drills when I was there. I went over with Coach Doman and [Sky Line High School quarterback] Jake Heaps, and we worked on timing patterns. I ran routes for Jake, and that kid is so awesome. He has an amazing arm and is going to be one of the best quarterbacks. His senior year, he'll easily be the number one player. I guarantee it."

Wilson formed a close bond with Heaps during BYU's summer camp. Since then, the two have communicated through text messages and have made possible future summer plans together.

"He's a really good kid and we got along really, really well," said Wilson of Heaps. "My parents and my uncle [Steve Wilson] were up there at BYU's camp and they got along really well. Jake Heaps' mom [Kelly], she's one of those moms that when she first meets you she gives you one of those great big ole hugs. So I thought that was awesome, and she said she wanted to have me come up to Washington some time and visit them when everyone gets done with all of these camps. We just talked about going up there and hanging out and taking a little break. She's just a really nice lady and is always happy, and that's what I like about her. She's just a great lady."

While Wilson and Heaps hung out at BYU, the two highly recruited athletes paid a visit to BYU's football office and got a bit of a surprise.

"Me and Jake went to BYU's football office together and saw Max Hall there," said an excited Wilson. "That was really cool. We went up there to check things out and ended up seeing Max Hall. During lunch we went into the quarterbacks' meeting room and watched film in there. It was pretty cool. Max was one of the only players I saw up there that day, and that's what you have to do. You have to be a leader of the team and put in the time and know what's going on at all times."

While watching film with Hall and Heaps, Wilson gained a greater appreciation for football at the college level.

"I learned it gets just that more competitive at the next level," Wilson said. "You have to be able to read every defense, every coverage and things like that.

The experience with Hall was a memorable one for Wilson, and it reinforced his desire to be a role model and good example to those younger athletes he comes in contact with.

"Max Hall was really cool," said Wilson. "I thought he was going to be this guy who was like, ‘Hey, look at me, I'm this stud quarterback at BYU,' but that wasn't the case at all. He was really down to earth and talked to me. He was someone that you could really talk to very easily and wasn't someone who was big on himself. He's just a really good guy and great person. I'm a bigger fan of Max now. He's awesome."

The experience Wilson had with Hall was in sharp contrast to an experience he had with a different high profile athlete.

"I remember when I was a little kid and we were at a Utah Jazz game," Wilson said. "They were playing the Sacramento Kings in the playoffs. We were staying at the same hotel that the Kings were, and I remember we were trying to get some autographs. A lot of them gave me an autograph, but I remember going up and asking Jason Williams for an autograph. He looked at me and said, ‘I don't do autographs.' Ever since that day I've never really liked him, so who you are can affect other people, especially if they follow who you are."

When Coach Mendenhall was first hired by Athletic Director Tom Holmoe, he set out to establish an identity and solidify it through the vehicle of football. Coach Mendenhall further conveyed much of that identity through reading passages from the Book of Mormon during a press conference. Wilson talked about the significance of being a part of the BYU program.

"Yeah, you represent something more than just a football team," said Wilson. "The majority of the people at BYU are LDS and it's an LDS school. By living the standards you're supporting what the Church stands for [which you also do] by living the honor code, which every player has to live by. I would definitely say you represent more than just a school by playing at BYU. Coach Mendenhall and I have talked about how BYU is a privately owned school by the Church, and how it's different than any other university in the country.

"When I talked to him we talked about faith, family and then football. That's kind of how everything goes: in that order. Faith is based on how we live our lives with the honor code. I think it can be a kind of missionary tool because kids can go there and be awesome and be in a position to be great examples by how they live."

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