Former Terp Josh Wilson Returns Home

After being traded from Seattle, former DeMatha and MD standout returns to MD to play for the Ravens.

On Aug. 31, the secondary-deprived Baltimore Ravens made a trade with the Seattle Seahawks to acquire a cornerback crammed with potential. In many ways, it was something alien – a new team, coach, locker room, scheme. But for Wilson, it was a homecoming, and the perfect next chapter in his story.

The move caught Wilson a little off guard, but he’s a defensive back – he just sticks with a route, wherever it takes him. And Baltimore, his new home, is just under an hour away from his hometown of Upper Marlboro.

“Any time something changes in your life, you’re a little thrown back at first. It was bitter,” Wilson said of growing accustomed to being a starting cornerback and kick returner in Seattle, “But it was sweet in that way that I was going to a team playing for a championship, and I was going back home.”

Wilson was going home to where he grew up; home to where his love for football all began. At DeMatha Catholic High School, he learned the Xs and Ox from a legendary coach in Bill McGregor. In addition to getting familiar with tackling and shadowing receivers, Wilson learned what it took to become a man.

“I was so happy I had the opportunity to go [to DeMatha] and play for [coach McGregor] and know him as a person,” Wilson said, noting that he’s been ever more in touch with his former coach since the move to Baltimore.

“Coach McGregor has taught me so much as to making sure I put the right person out there and what kind of man I am. [He] instilled a different type of mentality – it’s not all about fame, glory; it’s about showing that you’re a true man amongst men.”

This season, the powerhouse that is DeMatha is off to a 3-1 start, but “at DeMatha, 3-1 is not a great season for us,” according to Wilson. “They go on a roll, cover up that one loss and it will be all wiped away.”

It was then off to the University of Maryland for Wilson, where he cemented his status as a future star. In 2006, he earned All-ACC honors, and set the single-season Terps record for kick return yards.

Two interceptions, two forced fumbles, three blocked kicks and 157 tackles, along two Academic All-ACC selections and a James Tatum Award are some of the accolades Wilson collected, but that’s not what Wilson remembers most about being a Terp. It wasn’t about statistics; it was all about winning.

On Nov. 22, 2003, the Terps went to Carter-Finley Stadium to take on the N.C. State Wolfpack on their senior night. The team overcame a 14-point deficit to edge a Philip Rivers-led team in a game they needed to earn a spot in the Toyota Gator Bowl, a game Wilson dubbed as huge.

But the memory that sticks out above all others for Wilson dates back to his first career start at corner, when the Terrapins hosted the number five ranked team in the land, rival Florida State. It was special for the team because they had finally captured a win in their series against the Seminoles, ending a 38-year drought of falling short.

“It was just a great day and something we’ll remember, being that first team to break that hold that FSU had on us,” Wilson said, who was quick to mention his 2-1 record against the Seminoles. “Not many people can say that.”

The camaraderie within the Terps loomed large for Wilson. Developing close ties and playing alongside the likes of Madieu Williams, Denard Wilson, Dominique Foxworth, D’Qwell Jackson, Shawne Merriman, Scott McBrien – it taught Wilson how to tackle the ins and outs of what he calls “the game within the game.”

“I think playing with the players I got to play with – they just taught me so much about [football],” Wilson said. “They taught me how to be a true football player.”

Despite being scattered among various NFL teams, the Terps alumni are still very much in touch. The bonds they developed while they were Terps teammates are important to keep, as indicated by Wilson.

“We still keep the phones ringing, and that’s important to keep those connections open and just making sure you’re checking in with one another.”

As he keeps up with his former Terps, he’s also keeping a close eye on the current ones. Wilson has been adamant in following his alma mater, and to this point, he’s proud, but he’d like to see more out of a team jam-packed with talent.

“I’d be impressed if we were 3-0 but I’m still hopeful. I’m hoping that these guys can just turnaround from last year,” Wilson said. He also mentioned to the seniors on the team that their legacy at Maryland could be defined by a successful 2010 season. This is what people are going to think of as your team. You want to go out with a bang.”

One of the glaring strengths of the team this year is the secondary, led by juniors Kenny Tate and Cameron Chism. Both defensive backs have maintained ties with Wilson, who likes to keep an eye on his successors, and return the favor of being a mentor.

“I always keep an eye on [Tate] and make sure he’s doing his thing,” Wilson said of the Terps safety, another fellow graduate of DeMatha.

Chism and Wilson shared a coach during their high school careers. Bryce Bevill, Chism’s head coach at Bishop McNamara High School, was also Wilson’s defensive backs coach at DeMatha, so he knows he was in good hands.

“I’m looking out for Chism,” Wilson said. “I need somebody to follow in the footsteps to be the next big thing to come out of the secondary.”

Based on Tate’s game-saving tackle at the conclusion of the Maryland-Navy matchup Sept. 6, Wilson has developed a lot of confidence in the secondary and the team. And with the ACC wide open, there’s no way he could count his Terps out.

“If we play defense like we did at the goal line versus Navy, and the offense can catch fire with [wide receiver] Torrey [Smith] making big plays, we got a lot of talent,” Wilson said. “And right now, in the ACC, there doesn’t look like there’s a clear frontrunner and you just got to hit your stride at the right time.”

From DeMatha to the University of Maryland to his home state National Football League team, you could say that Wilson has written the script of a Maryland kid’s dream. And everywhere he’s been, he’s been sure to leave his mark.

As a senior at DeMatha, Wilson earned first team all-state honors. As a Terp, he earned numerous awards for his play on his field while maintaining excellence in the classroom.

In two years starting with the Seahawks, Wilson compiled the type of numbers that further reveal why the Ravens acquired him. Six picks, three forced fumbles, two sacks, three scores and a whole lot of promise – and he’s starting a whole new chapter in Baltimore.

Wilson admitted that he doesn’t think he could have written the script any better. “If I can put my stamp in on the Ravens team and be able to be a great player in this organization, I don’t think I would want it any other way.”

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