Coming out of DeSoto in 2013 as one of the nation’s top recruits, Dontre Wilson had his pick of the top football programs in the country.
And that pick was Oregon. But when Ducks coach Chip Kelly left for the NFL, Wilson decommitted and took a visit to Ohio State. He was impressed by the new era of Buckeyes football taking root under coach Urban Meyer, who had just finished his first season at OSU with a 12-0 record.
So long, Ducks. Hello, Bucks.
After an impressive freshman season in which he finished with nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards, the halfback/receiver was enjoying an even bigger role for the Buckeyes in 2014 when he broke his foot against Michigan State on Nov. 8.
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As a sophomore he was leading the team with 1,064 all-purpose yards at the time, which included the game-clinching touchdown catch to give OSU the lead for good against the Spartans, while playing with a broken foot.
“I just knew there was something severely wrong with it because I kept limping on it,” Wilson said. “I was just playing through it like it was a regular injury.”
The season-halting injury came two days before Wilson’s son D’Neko was born. He spent the day showing him off to friends, family and teammates at the Buckeyes’ team hotel, the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.
Showing off his skills at AT&T Stadium, where he played twice with DeSoto, is what Wilson is hoping to get a chance to do against Oregon on Monday night. He’s certain he’s healthy enough to play, putting his chances at 95 percent. OSU considered using him against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, but “[the coaches] felt like we could beat ’Bama without me and we did,” he said. “I will be able to play. Friday I did a lot at practice and [Saturday] I’m going to do a lot more.”
His cast has been off a month, but there’s still a little soreness, he said. But compared to playing an entire game on a broken foot? It’s nothing. Especially when you have a chance to play in the biggest game of your life less than 25 minutes from your home.
“We made history just by making it here. And I was a big part of the team before I got hurt,” he said. “And I feel like I can come right back out and make plays and contribute to the team. And I’m playing at home in front of everybody who wants to see me and watched me in high school, so that’s crazy. It’s a blessing. I can’t wait to get back out there and play with these seniors and help them go out with a bang.”
Just to get in the game would be a victory of sorts for Wilson, but he’s determined that he’s healthy enough to be a force again, either as a return specialist or on offense. He still leads the team with 528 kickoff return yards and has 300 yards and three touchdowns receiving and 100 yards rushing.
Oregon defensive coordinator Don Pellum didn’t seem too concerned about the prospect of Ohio State having another offensive option. Or, more likely, he’s so overwhelmed with the thought of trying to contain a multitude of Buckeyes weapons that focusing on one who might not play is a waste of time.
“Like us, they’ve got a stable of guys,” Pellum said. “They’re all going to be able to catch the ball, they’re all going to be able to make someone miss one-on-one and they’re all going to run through a tackle. So in my mind they’re all the same guys.”
The idea of returning and helping Ohio State win its eighth national title and first since 2002, in his home state, has Wilson dreaming big.
“I could. It just depends on how things pan out. If my number is called, I’m going to try my best to make the plays,” Wilson said. “If he didn’t know I was playing, he’ll know then.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760