JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --- Schools -- including North Carolina -- are slowly discovering Jireh Wilson, a 6-foot-3, 188-pound athlete who led Northside High in both receiving and interceptions as it reached the state championship game.
"Jireh is real athletic," Northside head coach Kendrick Pollock said. "He plays wide receiver for us [and] free safety. He has real big hands. He's only 16 years old, so he's still a baby. He's a humbled kid [and] doesn't show too much, but on Friday nights it comes out and it speaks on film -- he's just that quiet leader. As soon as football was over, he went over to basketball; after basketball he came right on out to track-- he's a hard-working kid. He's an excellent student. To be 6-3, 188 [pounds] and have the ability to stretch the field offensively, and then turnaround and play defense, and also special teams and return kicks is special."
Prior to his sophomore year, Wilson moved to Jacksonville from Florida. He immediately became an integral part of Northside High's offense and defense.
"This year, Jireh stepped up and made big plays for us on offense," Pollock said.
"As a safety, he's back there calling out the coverages for us. He's not afraid to come up and lay a hit. A couple of playoff games, we walked him down and put him on [the opponent's] tight end or whoever we thought their main guy was [and] he'd lock onto them man-to-man."
As Northside High marched its way into the NCHSAA 2AA title game, Wilson led the team in receiving yards (583) and receiving touchdowns (seven), with 31 receptions. Defensively, he was the team leader in interceptions with eight, while also making 41 tackles.
Wilson might be NC's greatest sleeper. At least initially, when college coaches visited Northside High during the Winter Evaluation Period they came to see Maurice McIntyre.
"When they first come in, everybody knew about Maurice," Pollock said. "And then I show them Jireh and Demetrius [Jones], because they're going to be big-time kids."
UNC, namely wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer, took a liking to Wilson.
"The first thing they like about Jireh is they like his size," Pollock said. "And then they shake his hands and they see he has big hands. They like his body frame. And then they see that he excels in the classroom. I think the light bulb went off, 'I have a student athlete that I don't need to worry about.'"
Clemson, Charlotte, Duke, Georgia Tech, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest have also taken an interest in Wilson. However, no school has offered.
UNC's interest in Wilson prompted an invitation to the Tar Heels' first junior day back in late January. He gladly accepted
"It was a great experience," Wilson said. "I loved the school; they gave me a tour of the facility. All the coaches approached me well. I just like the attitude and atmosphere of the school itself."
The experience provided Wilson his first conversation with Brewer.
"When I first met him, he asked me about my personal life -- how I grew up, who I live with," Wilson said. "And then he was telling me about how he likes my size and athleticism, and they're going to keep looking at me going into my senior season. And hopefully, they can offer me."
According to Wilson, Brewer is recruiting him as an athlete. Most other schools see Wilson as either a safety or receiver.
NC State is the only other school that Wilson has visited.
"My favorite is UNC, but I like NC State also," Wilson said. "They're both in-state and I kind of want to stay close to home, but also I just like the coaches and the environment."
Wilson's first name is pronounced JEYE-rah... With both parents in the military, Wilson has moved around a lot... Wilson maintains a 4.25 weighed GPA... Wilson has worked out with UNC wide receiver Josh Cabrera, during his breaks from school... As mentioned above, Wilson is also a member of the basketball team, which went undefeated and won the 2017 NCHSAA 2A Championship, and runs track. He plans to run in the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter dashes.