The night Nebraska added a second quarterback to its 2016 recruiting class, the high school coach in Del City, Oklahoma, looked down at his phone and saw a text from Terry Wilson.
The message was alerting him to the news, nothing more. So Nick Warehime checked in with his quarterback, asking the first QB to commit to the Huskers in this cycle the obvious question: “What do you think?”
Warehime knows Wilson well enough by now that the nature of the response did not surprise him — positivity.
“He said, ‘I think it’s great. I’ve got a new teammate,’” Warehime recalled. “There’s not many kids in today’s society that take that kind of approach. Whether you redshirt or not as a freshman, whether you travel or not, you’re going to have to compete. There’s going to be somebody that’s going to be a sophomore or junior to compete with, too. I know Nebraska didn’t get a ’15 (quarterback) signee and he knew that. And he knew there was the possibility that they might take two. And he didn’t flinch.”
Wilson has been eagerly taking on big challenges since the quarterback began starting at age 15, as a sophomore, for Del City.
The coach still fondly remembers Wilson’s first start on the varsity team. The opponent was the defending state runner-up in Class 6-A. Del City plays in Class 5-A. It had all the makings for a tough night.
Wilson didn’t flinch then either. On one zone-read play, Wilson read it like he’d been in charge of the offense for years, pulling the ball away at the precise moment, then running past everybody 71 yards until the school fight song was playing.
“When you’re standing on the sidelines, you’re kind of looking at the other coaches like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Warehime said.
Del City had its guy. A guy who understands being a quarterback is more than just about what you do on the field. It’s about being in command in all respects — the locker room, the classroom, conducting interviews.
Wilson doesn’t shy away from the added responsibilities that come with the job. He answers questions like he’s done it many times, because he has.
“Without that, you wouldn’t be anything at the position,” Wilson said. “You have to be outspoken. You have to have the extra package off the field as quarterback to be a leader. It’s just that little stuff. I think that came natural for me.”
And then, he delivers the kicker: “I do have three older sisters so I have to speak up.”
Wilson, it seems, likes to show leadership to more than just his teammates. In the offseason, he’ll text or tweet at kids from other schools to meet him and run through drills. A bunch of kids from different area schools at Oklahoma City will show up in one place and compete. “That’s just him,” Warehime said.
He is often labeled a “dual-threat” quarterback, though he’s not big on being typecast in any way. Yes, he is pretty quick of foot, and his dad used to show him Randall Cunningham highlights, saying that could be him. Michael Vick in his prime also had his attention as a little kid. And Wilson’s coach points out that the quarterback ran a time of 22.1 seconds in the 200 meters and made the finals at the Oklahoma state track meet.
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“I don’t know how many high school quarterbacks that are 22.1 200 guys,” Warehime said. “There’s probably some, but not many that can be 6-3, weigh 195 pounds right now, and spin a football like he can spin a football.”
Fast as he is, Wilson wanted to be more than a quarterback known mostly for his feet. As a sophomore, in 10 games, he threw the ball only 51 times for 494 yards. In his junior year, with some depth worries behind him and Wilson developing more in the passing game, Del City didn’t run him as often. In 12 games, he completed 201 of 369 passes for 2,856 yards, with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
“He’s worked really, really hard, with a lot of hours on the field and in the weight room, in front of the video, just to improve to become a quarterback. He’s a quarterback now. He’s not a dual-threat quarterback,” Warehime said. “He’s a quarterback that has the ability to run and his legs can extend plays.”
One of Wilson’s favorite quarterback of the moment to study: Jameis Winston.
The coach calls him “a sponge.” A great listener, which is a requirement to be a great learner. It’s helped him become so in charge of Del City’s offense that Warehime said everything runs through the quarterback.
“He has get-outs on every play. We’re no-huddle. We put him in a play and if he sees something he likes better, it’s built into the play, and he makes the decision. So how many passes we had, how many ever runs we had last season, there was probably only 10 out of those few hundred that came directly from us. The rest of it was from us through him, and he has the ability to get us in and out of the play, which is pretty impressive.”
It all adds to together to explain why, when bringing up incoming NU offensive lineman Jalin Barnett, a 2015 signee, Warehime said of Husker recruiting: "They got the best lineman in the state of Oklahoma last season. They have the best quarterback in the state of Oklahoma this time.”
Wilson is keeping the foot on the pedal. A couple of days ago he watched his first start from his junior season and took careful note of all the missed plays he could have capitalized on. “I kind of felt a little stupid,” said the quarterback, being his toughest critic.
As for Patrick O’Brien, his fellow Husker quarterback commit from California, who on Saturday was competing in the Elite 11 semifinals in Los Angeles, Wilson said: “I’m excited for him. I think it’s going to be a great deal. I’m just going to come up and compete for the top spot, and I wish him the best of luck, too.”
Last weekend, Wilson visited Lincoln for the second time, his first time since committing to NU and first since a summer camp event last year.
He took a picture alongside the Heisman Trophy, tweeting what became a popular item on social media with Husker fans.
“It was a great feeling,” Wilson said. “It would be a blessing just to have the chance to chase something like that. See where that takes me.”
Wilson’s grin in the photo may not be all that different than the one his coach said he wakes up with each day, knowing he gets another season to have the quarterback running his offense.
“I don’t know of any guy that coaches for a living, that when you have a talented skill-set person, but he’s also the hardest-working player that you have, who doesn’t want to be around people like that,” Warehime said. “It makes you want to get up and go to work. And you know that when you get there, our kids will follow him.”