Century graduate Jack Wilson is chasing the QB dream
How far would you go to play a game you love? For Century High School quarterback Jack Wilson, the answer was roughly 1,700 miles.
Born and raised in Elk River, Minnesota, Wilson first played the game in the second grade. Since then, it's been an 11-year love affair that started in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, persisted in the Beaver State and now — after a decade of hard work — will take the next step at the University of Minnesota-Duluth this coming fall.
"Football has been everything to me," Wilson said. "As long as I can remember I've identified myself as a football player. I fell in love with it at a young age and I wanted to make the most of myself on the football field. I demanded that of myself."
To understand the decision, you must first understand the young man. The son of Mike and Angie Wilson, Jack is the oldest of four kids. His mom, aside from handling some occasional day care duties, is a stay-at-home mom, while Jack's dad owns and operates Wilson Theater Services, a movie booking company that advises theaters about what to show, based on viewer and revenue speculation.
Wilson loves football. He idolized Peyton Manning growing up, and since the future hall of famer's retirement three years ago, has followed closely the careers of young up-and-comers like the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Cleveland Browns rookie sensation Baker Mayfield, all players he tries to emulate.
"Peyton Manning has inspired me by how hard he works, his knowledge, accuracy — and I was drawn to him," Wilson said. "But now I look at Rodgers, Mayfield, Mahomes, guys that do things similar to me ... with the ability to move, but pass-first guys."
Lofty comparisons, but you'd expect nothing less from a guy with lofty goals.
Wants to play in the NFL
Though it's a long shot, Wilson wants to play in the NFL. A study done by Pro Sports Odds concluded that just 0.09 percent of high school football players will reach the game's highest level of competition. Considering there are 32 NFL teams and most teams only carry two quarterbacks, there are 64 available NFL quarterbacking jobs in the world, so the odds aren't in his favor, to say the least. But Wilson doesn't care. He understands the odds, but also has been fighting them for the bulk of his young football career.
"I've been doubted my whole life, but I use that as motivation," he said. "I'd like to play in the NFL. That's the goal, to play as long as I can. I know it's very tough, but guys have done it, so it can be done."
It was that goal, or more precisely the next step in his maturation process on the field — playing in college — that brought the young gunslinger to Oregon.
Prior to his seventh grade year, Wilson's Minnesota high school — Elk River High — hired a new coach who brought with him the run-first Wing-T offense. As it turns out, it was great for the school — they won a state championship Wilson's sophomore year. But for a guy looking to earn a collegiate playing opportunity, the budding signal-caller needed to throw the football. So with help from his family, Wilson began the search for a transfer option that would allow him to do just that.
Enter Sean McMenomy.
The now former Century head coach, who had a storied career coaching in Minnesota prior to one season in North Carolina, was a spread it out, throw-first offensive guru. More importantly for Wilson, McMenomy had a long relationship with the Wilsons, having grown up with Jack's mother Angie and her family. Wilson's father, Mike, knew McMenomy was heading to Oregon and after some communication with the coach, along with Jack, the family decided Century was the place to be.
"I knew Mac (McMenomy) a little, but he was a family friend of my parents," Wilson said. "It was a lot for sure, especially since I was born and raised in one town and everything and everyone here was what I knew. But I knew if I wanted to play football in college, this was what I had to do, so my family decided to let me move out here and chase my dream."
And that's what he did. The family rented an apartment in Hillsboro and his parents alternated weeks out here, with at least one of them attending every game. For two years they accumulated miles, while their son accumulated yards. Wilson threw for 2,674 yards and 25 touchdowns his junior year, and upped the ante his senior season, throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns in just nine games, earning the respect of McMenomy.
"He's a heck of a thrower, but also an amazing leader and what you want out of a quarterback," McMenomy said. "He's a leader on the field, in the classroom, the weight room. He's just a classy kid that everyone hopes to coach."
A spot on the field
Despite his individual success, it wasn't enough to get the Jaguars into the playoffs, but it was enough to get the senior the college opportunity he longed for.
Wilson recently accepted a scholarship to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, a Division II school with a history of success on the gridiron. The Bulldogs were undefeated last season before dropping an opening round playoff game, and have two NCAA Division II national championships to their name, 2008 and 2010. The new Century graduate knows it won't be easy cracking the lineup at UMD, but also didn't flinch when asked about his chances to see the field in meaningful time, earlier rather than later.
"Absolutely I feel like I can earn a spot on the field," Wilson said. "Talking to Coach Wiese, he assured me that the best player is always going to play. I know they have some really talented players there, but I have high confidence that I can get the job done. If you don't have that, you shouldn't be playing quarterback."
And McMenomy agrees with much of Wilson's assessment.
"I think where he's going he can get in right away, whereas at a bigger program you may not play for two or three years," McMenomy said. "Levels don't matter, and in fact we almost encouraged Jack to go the D-II route so he could get on the field sooner and get that experience."
It's not all football with Wilson. He plans to take full advantage of his scholarship opportunity and has his eye on a business degree at UMD. But he also has goals on the gridiron, ones that include a productive career that hopefully results in the type of team and individual accolades that can provide at least a chance for him to prove himself at the professional level.
"I feel like if I can lead my team to success and put up good numbers, I can get on some prospect sheets and find my way into someone's camp," said Wilson.
Coach Mac won't count him out.
"There's a work ethic that separates kids. Some get by with raw talent, but most are separated by a work ethic that's better than most," McMenomy said. "Jack has the work ethic, so who knows. He's one of those kids that has that rare commitment that can make anything possible."
Wilson is back in Minnesota now, having graduated prior to spring quarter. And after it all — the move, the football, the scholarship — was it worth it?
"I enjoyed it at Century and made a lot of lifelong friends," Wilson said. "I love Oregon and the people there. I have no regrets. I gave my all on the field, in the classroom, to my teammates, and made a lot of good relationships. I put it all out there."
And how does he feel about the coach that helped make it all happen?
"My relationship with Coach Mac has only grown since I went there," said Wilson. "He believes in me and believes in his players, and I think he's an outstanding man and outstanding coach. I can't say enough good things about him."