Nick Wilson knows what people think about him, what they say.
He’s eternally banged up, always injured, it seems. Arizona might as well name its weekly injury report after him.
Recently, a fan tweeted about Wilson’s proclivity for injuries and missing games. The senior running back went out of his way to respond to the tweet: “Yeah, and your point is?”
“I appreciate my fans,” Wilson said. “But a lot of people don’t know what’s actually going on.”
The frustration from Arizona’s fan base with Wilson is manufactured largely because of what he’s shown when he’s been healthy. As a freshman, he ran for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns and missed only one game. He then ran for 559 rushing yards and five touchdowns through the first four games of 2015.
Two weeks later, he left a game against Oregon State early with an injury, and he’s never been quite the same.
Arizona releases weekly injury reports a few days before each game. Since Week 6 of the 2015 season, Wilson has been listed on 16 of UA’s 23 reports with varying knee, ankle and foot injuries.
Counting that Oregon State game in 2015, Wilson has either missed or left early in 20 of Arizona’s last 24 games. After opening his career with nearly 2,000 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in his first 17 games, he’s played in only 13 games since and rushed for 660 yards and seven touchdowns.
He’s already left one game early this season (Northern Arizona) after coming down awkwardly on an offensive lineman and injuring his foot. He missed the Houston game a week later. So far this season, Wilson has rushed for 171 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries while splitting touches in the backfield with sophomore J.J. Taylor.
Now Wilson is back, he’s healthy and feels that, as a running back, he’s better than he’s ever been.
The Star spoke with Wilson this week and talked about his Arizona career and what’s in store for the rest of the way.
How do you feel when you see people cracking jokes or criticizing you for going through all the injuries you’ve experienced?
A: “It doesn’t really matter to me. Nobody else goes through it, people don’t know the hours you have to spend in extra treatment, taking away from your personal time. You have to go in there, sit in the cold tub for hours on end, doing things you don’t want to do, but you got to do. It’s just unfortunate. If you look at all the injuries I’ve had, it’s been really bad luck. It’s random stuff.
“I’ve never had any major, major injuries. I’ve never had surgery or anything like that. That’s just how it is. In the times I have had injuries, I’ve played through major injuries.
“People who question my toughness or anything like that, I’m not worried about it. It’s just people wanting to say stuff.”
How frustrating was it not being to play or help in such a close game (UA lost 19-16) against Houston?
A: “It was pretty frustrating especially knowing how I hurt my ankle, just some random stepping on a lineman. I probably could’ve pushed through it but I don’t know how productive I would’ve been. It was a game-time decision the coaches made.
“It was tough seeing that it came down the last little bit, but I was able to come back and the way the schedule was it worked out.”
What happened on the drop you had late in the game against Utah?
A: “To be honest with you, and not a lot of people knew, but I could not see the ball. It got lost in the light. I had to guess.
“I felt awful. It’s happened a couple times (before) but not like that. Like legit, the only the time I saw the ball was when it left his hand and when it hit my hand. I had to guess. It was unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
Do you feel like you’re at the level you were playing at as a freshman?
A: “I know a lot more. As a freshman I was a lot lighter and just throwing my body out there. As a senior now, I know what I have to do, how plays are supposed to work, where the ball is supposed to go, knowing what everybody else is doing.
“So that athletic ability and explosive ability, it’ll come because I’ve done it, I know how to do it and I’ve seen it. It’s just that knowledge.”
You’ve been through a lot in your career, from the injuries and the team’s ups and downs. What’s it like knowing that you’re entering the final stretch of your college career?
A: “It really has flown by. I think I was the last class to be recruited when the football staff was in the old building (at McKale Center). My first recruiting trip I remember going to the old building and seeing RichRod down there in McKale.
“I remember that vividly. (Lowell-Stevens Football Facility) wasn’t even built yet. Coach Rod was telling me about how it was getting built. It’s crazy now, I’m just a couple months to being done.”
Does that make you go even harder, just knowing you only have a limited number of games left before it’s over?
A: “I’ll always grind, no matter what I’m doing. We can be down by 60, I’ll still play as hard as I can. That’s just always how I’ve played, from Pop Warner all the way to now.”