With the opening of the football season just days away, Emporia State quarterback Brent Wilson has reason to look to it with excitement and anticipation.
The Hornets were picked No. 3 in the MIAA preseason media poll and No. 4 in the coaches poll. They won 19 games in the last two seasons and return 10 starters from last year’s offense.
And four of those starters are on an already strong offensive line.
The potential appears to be big for the junior from Ponca City, who is getting ready to build on a solid season as a second team All-MIAA selection in 2013.
Wilson, who saw action as a freshman, but became a starter as a sophomore, was prepared for the rigors of the challenging MIAA by playing at the highest level of high school football in Oklahoma.
“Certainly playing against Tulsa Union and Owasso and the top teams in Class 6A every year kind of gives you the mentality that you can go up against anyone and compete,” Wilson said. “Especially in the MIAA, which is arguably one of the greatest conferences in D-II. So it definitely gives you a perspective on competing and giving it your all and looking for the best.”
In that tough classification, the Wildcats won only five games from 2009-2011, but Wilson’s performance still caught the attention of coaches on the next level.
“From Ponca City, our numbers have been low the last few years,” Wilson said. “Playing against Tulsa Union and Owasso and some of those schools, you know, we have 55 and 60 guys out and they have 100 and something guys out and sometimes that can be a disadvantage. But at the same time, we went out each and every week and competed with them.
“It was tough certainly, but I had a blast. I was glad I got an opportunity to play at the next level. When your team goes 2-8 and you’re saying, “Well, I wonder what the problem is,” but I was glad that Coach (Garin) Higgins blew past the record part and focused on my talent.”
Having fun is the kind of attitude that might be expected from someone who has played football for most of his life. Wilson said he had played since pre-school and been a quarterback pretty much the whole time.
He made his mark in the Wildcats’ record book as he owns 13 school records. Wilson passed for 6,167 yards and 61 touchdowns in high school. As a senior, he threw for 2,747 yards and 28 TDs, while gaining 612 yards with five touchdowns on the ground.
A resident of Ponca City since he was a year old, Wilson made his way to Emporia State following another Wildcat.
“Adam Schiltz, who is playing for the Kansas City Chiefs right now, graduated from Emporia State and he was from Ponca City and he was a senior and I was a freshman. He was playing quarterback and then transitioned to tight end in college.
“I kept in touch with the school, knowing it was only a few hours from home and in Division II. And then I got in touch with Coach Higgins through a skills camp in the summertime going into my senior year.
“And I got to go up there and visit the coaches and give them film and think that’s when I got the coaches interested in me and when I got interested in Emporia State.”
Wilson got to Emporia, Kan., at the right time, as the program has been peaking of late. And he has been a part of keeping the momentum moving. But it’s not just the wins that he appreciates about his experience.
“The previous year, my freshman year, we went 10-2 and won our Kansa Bowl and that was great and the first winning season in a few years for Emporia State. After that, there was a boost of momentum going into the next year, because we had a great quarterback and we had to fill a lot of big shoes from the previous season. And we were excited about the challenges and opportunities that came upon us. And we strived all winter and summer long to continue on that great season and try to make it past that.
“The family atmosphere at Emporia State is tremendous and how we work together on and off the field leads to a successful season.”
A three-sport star in high school, Wilson also excelled in basketball and golf. He made the choice to focus on football athletically as he headed to college.
And his focus in life goes beyond athletic competition.
“I was blessed to be able to grow up in a Christian home where my parents taught me about the Lord Jesus Christ and took me to Sunday School,” Wilson said. “I was saved at an early age. And throughout high school and college, I’ve really decided to commit my life to the Lord through my actions and all those things.
“And that’s what I try to do at Emporia State is just try to live for Him in all I do. I try to live that Christ-like example on and off the field, you know, and hope others will see Christ living through me, which to me is all that matters in this short life we live.
“At times, it’s hard to stay grounded in your faith when there are few others that are with you, but at the same time you know that you’re living the life you’re supposed to and it’s for His glory.”
The business management major is getting ready to try to follow up an all-conference season on the field in 2014. But when he is done competing, he said he hopes to work with people in some form of business atmosphere and that he wants to travel some.
He also said he wants to have had an impact.
“I want to be remembered just as someone who loves the Lord and who is committed to making a difference in the lives of others and who will do anything in life to the best of his abilities.”