Dream denied, former Woodlawn coach found another path

FORMER KNIGHT FOND OF FRIDAY NIGHTS:   Former Woodlawn High School football coach Jerwin Wilson is a college assistant coach at Texas Southern, and fondly recalls the Friday night rewards of coaching local high school football.

By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports

The only thing standing between young Jerwin Wilson, and his dream of playing college football, was a routine physical exam.

Except this physical turned out to be not routine.

“I’ll never forget it,” Wilson remembered. “Dr. Shane Phillips. He’s still the doctor there to this day.”

“It” was the news delivered by Louisiana Tech’s team physician. Wilson, who had recently graduated from Arcadia High School, had a previously-undetected heart murmur. The preferred walk-on defensive back would not be playing for the Bulldogs — or anyone else.

“It was gut-wrenching,” Wilson said.

So gut-wrenching, Wilson went in search of a second and third opinion. Both were the same as the first opinion.

“It was very disappointing,” Wilson said. “I felt like I could compete with the best of them. You see guys out there playing on Saturday, and knowing you have the athletic ability, but it wasn’t in my best interest for me to be out there longevity-wise, with the condition I had.”

At 17 years old, with a dream denied, he  was down, but not out. Wilson turned frustration into a future — a future in coaching. He went from being offensive coordinator at his alma mater (while attending Tech), to Shreveport’s Woodlawn High School. He was on the Knights’ staff 10 years, the last six as head coach.

Now, about to turn 36, the father of two daughters kicks off his fourth season this morning at Texas Southern, in Houston, as receivers coach when the Tigers stage their first preseason practice.

“It’s surreal,” Wilson said of his path to coaching in a NCAA Division 1  (FCS) program. “It’s a blessing.”

Wilson went 39-30 as the Knights’ head coach, leading Woodlawn to a district title once, and a spot in the Class 4A state quarterfinals another season.

“I grew up there,” Wilson said of his time on Wyngate Boulevard. “To spend a decade at one place is something I don’t take for granted. It made me a better coach because I had to deal with a lot of adversity.

“I had to meet kids where they are. I understood that it was bigger — much bigger — than football. I’m always going to go to a place where I feel like I can make an impact. When I talk about impact, it has nothing to do with on the field. To me, it’s all about pouring (yourself) into kids’ lives.”

And that’s why Wilson left the relative comfort of running his own program, to step up a level — and work for someone else.

“God placed me at Woodlawn, and I felt he was doing the same at Texas Southern,” Wilson said. “My purpose to impact the lives of others in a positive way has not (changed).”

But while Wilson’s motives are the same, the work isn’t.

“The biggest difference is the recruiting — 365 days out of the year,” Wilson said. “Recruiting never stops. You’re always looking for guys to make your team better.”

And after going 3-8 (2-6 in the SWAC) last year, Wilson believes this is the year the Tigers get better.

“We feel like we finally have enough recruiting classes to turn this thing around,” said Wilson, who is also TSU’s recruiting coordinator. “We’re excited about where we’re going.”

Even though Wilson is now a college coach, he hasn’t forgotten the precious days gone by.

“I love Friday night lights,” Wilson said. “There have definitely been Friday nights at the (team) hotel getting ready for a Saturday game that I miss those old Friday nights.”

You can take the coach out of high school football, but you can’t take high school football out of the coach.

Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com