D.J. Wilson has always stood out above the crowd. But it was not until the fifth grade when he had a birds-eye view of life.
Now standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 190 pounds, it was not hard for the Camden High senior wide receiver to draw his faire share of attention. When it came time to choose a school to attend to continue his academic and football playing pursuits, it was Newberry College which stuck out more than all the rest.
After signing his National Letter of Intent with the Wolves, Wilson said the school and the people associated with Newberry College made a lasting impression on him.
"I like the school. When I went there, everybody welcomed us with open arms," Wilson said of his official visit to campus. "They let us come into classrooms and see what the school is all about. Coach Flynn (Newberry assistant coach Steven) stressed that it is a great school and the football program is a winning one … it’s an all-around great school."
This past season, Wilson led Camden in pass receptions (41), receiving yards (603) and touchdown receptions (three.) As a junior, he had four grabs for 128 yards and three touchdowns including a 79-yeard catch and run in a victory over A.C. Flora.
In his three varsity seasons, Wilson caught 50 passes for 774 yards (15.5 yards per catch) with six touchdowns.
CHS head coach Jimmy Neal sai, for the tallest member of his team’s corps of wide receivers, Wilson has a high ceiling when it comes to what he can accomplish in the college game.
"D.J.’s that guy who they will be able to throw the verticals and the back shoulder passes to," Neal said off Wilson’s potential. "He can do a lot of good things for them and, he’s going to be a good player. The older he gets, his speed is going to increase more and more. I really think that he’s going to have a great career at Newberry."
Always the tallest kid in his class and on his recreation department league teams, Wilson hit a growth spurt in the fifth grade. "I went from being about 5-foot-6 to being six-feet tall in one year," he said with a laugh.
Being as tall as he was, Wilson played both youth football and basketball until deciding to devote all his energies to basketball, which he played as a three-year varsity forward at CHS. But after a year or two of watching from the sidelines in the fall during his pre-high school eyars, he returned to football, a sport which has now taken over as his favorite of the two.
It was not until his junior year that Wilson decided that football would the vehicle which would take him to the next level. It was then, he said, that he put more time and effort into the sport.
"That’s when I started to love the game of football," Wilson said. "Basketball was always my first love but last year, I really fell in love with football."
And as his passion for the game grew, Wilson’s numbers increased, both in catches and number of times targeted by Camden quarterbacks. His size created havoc for opposing defenders as Wilson became an integral part of the Bulldogs’ offensive game plan.
"D.J. has the great ability to run the verticals and was able to do a lot of good things for us," Neal said. "He was also a good practice player, which is very important. I think that he’s going to have some really good years ahead of him."
In being recruited by Newberry, specifically by Flynn, the former Kershaw County resident who was a head coach for the Kershaw County Post 17 American Legion baseball team, Wilson said how early he will see the field had not been discussed in depth by the Wolves’ coaching staff. Neither has his definite position been determined. All that, Wilson said, will be decided after he arrives at the school for the start of pre-season practice this summer.
"They have told me that I can come in and earn my spot. I do have a chance to go in there and earn playing time," he said. "They said that when I come in there for conditioning that I will have the chance to come in there and earn a spot."
As for the challenges which await him at the next level, Wilson said he needs to be ready for a different brand of football than what he saw in high school over the course of the past three seasons. "I have to get used to the up-tempo of college and the physicality of it," he said. "I have faith that I can adjust to it and, I have faith that they will get me right for it."
Among the areas which Wilson said he must improve are putting on more weight while getting stronger --- both physically and mentally --- and quicker at the same time. Neal said how quickly Wilson can pack on the pounds and then, turn those into muscle, will have a direct correlation as to when he will see the field and what position he will be used.
"The biggest change for D.J. in college will be getting off those corners," he said. "He struggles with that a little bit and he’s going to have to work hard at that because those guys will get up there and try to bully him and man him up tight. He’s going to have to be able to get off those guys.
"D.J. has the frame to put on a lot of weight and, I’m sure that he will. He’ll work hard in the weight room. He’s a very conscientious young man who does what the coaches ask of him. He will be where he is supposed to be. Good things will happen for him. He may grow into a tight end, for all we know."
Football aside, D.J. Wilson said signing day was something which he dreamed about and said he felt fortunate on this day to be able to have his college plans laid out for him.
"It’s a huge deal knowing that I get to go to school and to go to school to do what I love which is play football and continue to make my family proud," he said.