MOORE — Julian Wilson has never had a problem standing out from the crowd. As a junior at Southmoore, he once wore a pair of bright Playboy socks during a track meet.
Wilson’s unique personality had always been a trademark and his talent on the football field fell into place with it.
Despite that, more than two years into his college football career at Oklahoma, Wilson wasn’t happy with himself. He believed he had lost track of his identity. So, one day late last season, he went looking for it.
“It probably started toward the end of the season last year,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t happy with the way I was playing at the beginning of the season. I was missing too many plays, thinking too much. I just had to sit myself down and say ‘You know you can play, so go out there and play. Just do you. They recruited you here for a reason. So do what they brought you here to do.’”
From that point, the 6-2, 199-pound Wilson said he his game began to transform. He was no longer tentative and hesitant. The aggressive nature he had always played with began to emerge again and he became a regular in OU’s secondary rotation.
“It’s just stepping up and being confident and just making plays,” Wilson said. “In high school, people who saw me said I was cocky on the field. I feel like in coming up here, I kind of got away from that. Just being uptight … there were people older than you. Just have to go on the field and just be me. Talk noise, do what I do on the field.”
Wilson ended his redshirt sophomore season of with 31 tackles. He played in every game and started twice. And, Wilson headed into the offseason with plans to compete for a starting spot this season.
“I feel comfortable, but comfortable isn’t a word I’d like to use,” Wilson said. “Because there is always somebody trying to get my spot. Really, I’m competing every day. I’m not comfortable yet, because my spot is not solid. I haven’t been named the starter yet.”
Wilson is working on being a playmaker. He said he left too many turnovers and big plays on the field last season. Wilson’s teammates have noticed a change.
“He is more physical now,” senior linebacker Cory Nelson said. “Just watching him out there, he’s way more physical now. He is playing more like a linebacker whenever he has to roll into the box.”
Now in is second year to play for defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, Wilson is feeling more at home with what is expected of him from his coaches and teammates.
“The thing I love about Mike (Stoops) is he is just a real up front coach,” Wilson said. “He’s not going to sugarcoat anything for you. He’s going to tell you the way it is. If you are practicing bad, he’s going to tell you to your face. I just like the way he keeps it real with you. I respond well to the things he does because since he’s got here he’s taught me a lot and made me a better player. The sky’s the limit.”
The same can be said about Wilson off the field. While he had to rediscover himself on the field, he never lost track of his responsibilities in the classroom.
“School is going real good,” Wilson said. “That is something my mom instilled in me, that football is never guaranteed. You got offered a full scholarship and you need to take advantage of that. Coming into that freshman year, that has been in my heart. Grades have always been a big thing. It’s always been school over sports. If I came home with a bad report card (and) I had a basketball tournament that weekend, I wasn’t going to that basketball tournament. So really school is always first.”
Wilson’s been named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team the past two years and is due to graduate December, only 3 1/2 years after first stepping on campus. Depending on what happens with football, he has plans to enter grad school in the spring.
“I’m in college trying to get a degree that can help me the rest of my life,” Wilson said. “So really I have to invest my college degree as a plan A. My plan A is to succeed in football. But my plan A is to get a degree to. Everything is just split up 50-50. But at the end of the day, school is what determines (everything) because I could go into the first game and get hurt … I will have my degree in December.”
Like every highly recruited athlete that comes to Oklahoma, Wilson had aspirations of starting as a true freshman back in 2010. Those dreams were quickly dashed when he redshirted. Yet, looking back on having to sit and watch those first couple of seasons has made the present that much more gratifying for Wilson.
“Patience is a virtue,” Wilson said. “I was patient, didn’t leave, stayed. And my time is here now to take advantage of it. I faced a lot of adversity. Coming here as a freshman, not playing, it really hurts. You’re thinking I’m not good enough. But really my redshirt year I just took it as the coaches just letting me know I’m not ready. I took it as a compliment. They don’t want me stepping on the field until I’m at the best of my ability.”
For Wilson, the future is now.