On an afternoon that featured several highlights for the Ohio State football team, the fifth year senior thrilled the crowd – and his teammates – with an acrobatic interception of a Juice Williams pass that ended a promising Illini drive. The interception at the OSU 36-yard line helped the Buckeyes post their second straight shutout and made Wilson a popular postgame topic.
"I've been through so much the past two years," Wilson said. "I kept fighting back and fighting back. It was good that something fell for me."
Wilson's story is one of perseverance. The defensive lineman suffered a broken leg in the first game of the 2007 against Youngstown State. Then when he returned in 2008, a torn ACL suffered in the season's seventh game against Purdue sidelined him again. While his teammates won Big Ten championships in both seasons, Wilson watched on the sidelines.
A positive mindset helped Wilson deal with his bad fortune. When asked what was the lowest point of his rehab stints, he had no answer.
"I didn't really look at it like that," he said. "If you think about low times it drags your emotions down, drags your attitude down. I just thought about the positives all the time. My parents always taught me to keep pushing, keep pushing. It'll eventually break.
"I just listened to my parents and listened to my coaches. My coaches were extremely patient with me, always in my ear telling me, ‘Keep trying, keep trying, keep going.' It paid off."
Wilson's big moment was a major highlight according to his teammates. Several Buckeye coaches and players spoke of their joy in seeing Wilson in the spotlight.
"It's really important to me because I was able to – unfortunately – go to the hospital and see him after the last two injuries," co-defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. "Seeing him lay there and knowing that he's got to have surgery and his season was over. That was difficult. To see him have some success was really neat today."
What was not as sweet for Heacock was Wilson's celebration – more specifically what he did not do during it. After he returned the pick four yards to the OSU 40, Wilson let loose with a wild celebration as his teammates attempted to mob him. The Akron, Ohio, native made his way to the Ohio State sideline but forgot to do something the coaching staff stresses to its players – give the ball back to the official after a big play.
"He was fired up," Heacock said. "I kept telling him, ‘Get the ball back to the official.' "
Wilson said he was lost in the moment and did not see an official.
"I didn't even know what was going on until I sat down," Wilson said. "My teammates were telling me, ‘You were going crazy.' The first thing I thought was, ‘Coach Heacock is defiantly going to kill me.' "
"I was just excited," Wilson added. "I'm an emotion guy. I'm extremely emotional. I was glad we got off the field. They were driving on us and I just wanted to make a play for my teammates."
A former starter who now sees playing time as a reserve, Wilson has seven tackles this season in limited action. He had two tackles against the Fighting Illini with his interception and two pass breakups.
"I was probably about 80 percent when we started camp," Wilson said. "My coaches keep telling me, ‘Each week it's getting better and better.' I'm just trying to help my teammates as much as I could. If everyone does their job everything be fine."
Wilson said he is back at 100 percent now. No matter what happens the rest of the season, his coaches and teammates are pulling for him..
"It's a credit to him," Heacock said. "The way he's handled it is unbelievable. He just kept fighting, kept working, kept himself positive. He never lost his heart or his will to come back. You've got to give him a lot of credit."