Ray-Pec linebacker Andrew Wilson is the unquestioned leader of the Panthers' defense. Throughout his senior season, Wilson has tried to help younger teammates learn both their position and learn how to win. Thursday night, the first goal of the season for Wilson was accomplished as Ray Pec defeated Belton 56-28 to claim the district championship.
"It's going really well," said Wilson. "It was a little frustrating that they scored 14 points on our second team. It's a real special feeling to call yourself district champs. We've just got to keep on going and get ready for our playoff game November 10th."
Wilson committed to Missouri early in the 2009 recruiting season. He said knowing his college destination took a lot of pressure off of him during the fall. He joked it also made Saturday's more fun for him.
"It'd definitely been fun playing this year knowing where I'm going to go," said Wilson. "All I have to do is focus on ray-pec football. It's really nice to not have that pressure. It's been nice watching Missouri this year. They're having a great year, even if they tripped up a couple times. I've really had fun watching."
Wilson's father, Jay added his son was never one who wanted to drag the process out.
"Andrew is really a no nonsense kind of kid," said Jay Wilson. "Recruiting was never something he intended to take a long time. I think once Missouri offered, he knew where he wanted to go and didn't waste time with his decision."
Wilson was in Columbia last weekend for the Tigers 58-0 victory over Colorado. He was happy to see the defense get some small redemption after being the subject of talk for two straight weeks.
"I think the defense has played pretty well," said Wilson. "There have been a few big plays that have hurt them, but overall, they've been good. The shutout of Colorado was pretty sweet. It was fun to be there and watch it in person."
Ray-Pec and Missouri have developed a strong connection in the past few years. Two of Missouri's biggest offensive threats, Chase Coffman and Derrick Washington are both former Panthers. Wilson said he talked with both and had enjoyed playing with the younger brother of both.
"I know Chase some, I don't talk to him a whole lot, but we'll talk every now and then," said Wilson. "Derrick and I are pretty good friends and he's playing great. It's fun playing with their younger brothers, Cameron and Deron. They're pretty similar to their older brothers and it's fun watching the younger guys grow. They're both pretty young, but I do try to keep Missouri in their head when I can. It's not to hard to do, I think they both like Missouri pretty well."
Wilson said it was hard not to notice the Ray-Pec QB, Cameron Coffman. Coffman has already made himself a name to remember for the class of 2011 and Wilson said it had been fun watching Coffman both grow up in the spotlight.
"Cameron is playing great," said Wilson. "He's very composed on the field and he's really able to throw the ball wherever he wants. Having great receivers helps, but he's responsible for a lot of that too. He's going to be something special."
It hasn't just been former Panthers who have kept up with Wilson over the summer and fall. Wilson has been able to develop a good relationship with several of his future teammates, including two future teammates in the linebacking corps.
"I've gotten to know Will Ebner, Luke Lambert, and Andrew Jones quite a bit," said Wilson. "I'm thinking about showing up in January and I've been talking with Luke about it. He did the same thing and told me he'll help me with anything I need. Andrew and Will are just fun guys to talk with and we've gotten to be pretty good friends. I started getting to know Andrew last year when he was in high school. He kept texting me to come to Missouri. I guess he got his wish."
Wilson was one of the first 2009 recruits to be offered by the Tigers and since then, he has been in constant contact with others who have joined him as commits. The class has become a close knit group and Wilson enjoyed getting to know his fellow future Tigers.
"I talk with Jack Meiners, Adam Burton, T.J. Moe, and Justin Britt quite a bit and I've talked to the out of state guys a few times as well," said Wilson. "We're just excited to get down there and be a great defense next year. I know the St. Louis guys are talking and working on Ronnie Wingo Jr., but I'm letting them handle that. T.J.'s been our leader and he's a great guy."
Wilson said Burton was a close friend and the two had known each other for well over a decade. The two had talked about playing together in the past and were excited for the opportunity in the coming years. He said there was a definite advantage to playing alongside a good friend.
"Adam's a great guy," said Wilson. "We played basketball together way back in 3rd grade. It's going to be fun playing alongside him because we don't have to learn each other's instincts. We can just go out there and make plays. We already trust each other."
Jay Wilson said one of the biggest positives for a linebacker was the ability to trust your teammates. He was excited his son would have someone to count on in the defensive lineup.
"I think it's great for both Adam and Andrew to be playing together," said Wilson. "As a linebacker, you want to be able to trust the guys you line up next to. You have to know he's going to be covering his guy so you can concentrate on yours and play more freely. If two guys can come into school and know that for sure, they're ahead of the game."
Wilson said the excitement about the Tigers wasn't limited to himself. He said his parents had been ready to spend their weekends in Columbia watching him on the field.
"They really love that I'll be just down I-70," said Wilson. "I know mom's already trying to get a hold of the academic people at Missouri. They love the program and I know they'll be very involved in everything I do. Dad's excited he'll get to spend his weekends in Columbia again."
Wilson isn't the first Tiger linebacker in his family. His father, Jay was a linebacker for the Tigers and a four year letter winner between 1979-1983. For the younger Wilson, there may not have been a bigger thrill to him than to know he got to play the same position at the same school as his father.
"It means a lot to me that I get to play at the same place my dad did," said Wilson. "He was a linebacker himself so he's been a big help to me. He's like another coach on the sidelines and I can ask him about what I'm doing right and wrong at the position. He's very critical, but I like that because it can make me better. He and I both love having that linebacker mentality."
The elder Wilson admitted he and his son had a special relationship when it came to football. He said he was harder on his son about the position, but as Andrew had gotten older, there had been less to critique.
"I don't know if it's really sunk in about Andrew playing the same position at the same college," explained the elder Wilson. "It's amazing to me how much the position has changed since I played. When I played, we had to be good in the run because no one in the Big 8 really threw the ball much. With Andrew, so many teams, even in high school, are going to the spread. Linebackers have to be able to drop into coverage and make reads like cornerbacks. it's a challenge, but I think he's responded well."
"Admittingly, I probably do get on him harder than most kids get from their parents. Part of that comes from seeing those things as a player myself," explained Wilson. "He responds very well when you break things down, so it's gotten easier to watch film now. When we first started watching film, I had to train him on how to do it so there were some tense moments when I wanted to slow film down and he just wanted to see the whole play. Once he started seeing things slow down on film, they slowed down on the field and he has just gotten better every day and I think both our lives got easier from there."