Wilson Back Making Plays
Heading into the 2012 season, senior cornerback C.J. Wilson was expected to be one of the NC State's veteran leaders but a rules violation forced him to the scout team. Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien announced the news in early September, stating that Wilson would miss four games after dealing with NCAA issues. "I know why it is," said O'Brien at the time. "The situation is, he graduated in January and he didn't pass six hours in the spring semester. He thought he could get by... he put himself in a hole, he had some family issues, and thought he could save himself and he didn't, so he didn't miss the six hours passed. "But, he passed 12 hours in the summer with a 3.4 and was a graduate," O'Brien added. "The NCAA said we'll give you the four games instead of a year suspension. Which, because of the fact he was a graduate and had extenuating circumstances during the semester and came back and demonstrated to them he would be serious going forward by passing 12 hours in summer school with a 3.4, they gave him a four-game suspension." Wilson, a 5-foot-11, 187-pounder from Lincolnton, North Carolina, is a graduate student after graduating with his degree in three-and-a-half years. In his first three seasons he had started 29-of-38 games, totaling 95 tackles, nine pass breakups, and three interceptions while playing 1,854 snaps. Wilson had also returned all three touchdowns for scores. Given the amount of playing time he had received, Wilson admits it was tough not being able to play though four games, instead having to help his team prepare each week while working on the scout team. "It was rough going through camp, seeing everybody playing," he said. "It was hard. I would get emotional, especially in the first couple of games like Tennessee. I was down... I was out of it, but my real close friends like Earl Wolff, Tobais, Sterling, Dontae... they were all right there by me." Wilson was eligible to return at Miami, where he played 35 snaps and recorded a tackle. He played mainly special teams against Florida State and Maryland before lining up for 59 snaps on Saturday at North Carolina. He had one of the best games of his career against the Tar Heels, picking off a pass in the endzone and stripping a receiver at the 10-yard line for another takeaway. Wilson ended the day with three tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and an interception, earning ACC co-defensive back of the week honors, but it was the play he didn't make that is still on his mind. Early in the fourth quarter State held a ten-point lead on UNC when on third-and-long Wilson had a chance to pick off another pass, and potentially return it for a touchdown, but he wasn't able to come up with the interception. Had he done so, NC State might have had a big enough margin to sustain Carolina's late rally. "It's all a blur," said Wilson. "I remember him stopping, and I didn't think he was going to throw the ball. When he threw it I went running for it and for some reason I short-armed it. It just hit the tip of my fingers... I couldn't believe I just did that. "It's always those plays that you know you could have done something. I was thinking I should have caught that pick... that would have sealed the game. That would have ended it, but things happen for a reason so hopefully I can bounce back from that this week and make another play." State is now 5-3 on the year and 2-2 in league play. After the Carolina loss they no longer control their own destiny in the Atlantic Division, but Wilson believes they have the right mindset heading into their next game. "As a team we want to all get to the conference championship," he said. "We had a minor setback last week, and now our mindset is to win the next game, take it game-by-game. That's the key to success, taking it step-by-step. "The next step is Virginia. We're going to come out prepared... we're out here focused and competing with each other. We want to get over that next step, beating them and then going from there." Virginia has struggled this year and have lost their last six games. The Cavaliers have a balanced attack and definitely enough personnel to present a major challenge for the Wolfpack. "We looked at them," said Wilson. "We've studied them and they have the same offense as last year. They like to run the ball a lot. You don't get really too many funky formations, and you have to go back to the basics. Now we're going back to real football. You have to know what they are going to line up... now it's time to play football, time to react." For Wilson, he's just happy to be back contributing and playing major snaps after the way his senior year began. "I'm more than thankful," he stated. "I'm still thankful to this day. I was blessed to start here for three years, and thinking I was going to come back for my fourth and something happened. It's just a wakeup call that tomorrow is never promised... you never know when you're going to be able to play again. "The opportunity is a blessing. I take every practice and every drill seriously because I don't want to take it for granted."