DENTON - Jeffery Wilson was with his North Texas teammates for the 2017 Conference USA Championship Game over the weekend, a game the Mean Green lost 41-17 to Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Florida.
However, for a second straight week, the Elkhart product who is fourth in UNT history with 3,205 rushing yards and third with 32 rushing touchdowns, did not play. Wilson continues to nurse a Jones fracture, a break between the base and middle part of the fifth metatarsal, on his right foot, which he sustained late in a 52-49 win over Army on Nov. 18 at Apogee Stadium in Denton.
On Sunday, UNT (9-4) accepted a bid to play Troy, co-champion of UNT’s former league, the Sun Belt Conference, in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 16, and Wilson, who had 127 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in the 2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl against Army, wants to play one last time with the Mean Green to conclude his college career.
“Oh yeah, that would probably be the highlight of my life (to return for the bowl game),” Wilson said. “I’m a go-getter. I don’t let things bring me down. I don’t like to stay down. I’m built to get back up out of any situation. That’s obviously how I want to leave, but if I can’t get back, oh well. If I come back, I would love to and it would be the joy of my life, but if I don’t it’s not going to kill me.”
Unfortunately, injuries have been a factor for Wilson at times during his first three seasons in Denton as the senior running back had yet to play a full season. However, heading into this season, following an offseason where he did extra work in the weight room and on the field to not only make his body stronger but more durable, he’d hoped those efforts would prove fruitful and he could stay healthy for his entire senior campaign.
Of course, that all changed when he left late against the Black Knights on November 18, but the affable senior isn’t letting this latest setback dim his glass half-full demeanor in the least.
“Yeah, I’m used to them (injuries) now. They’ve kind of built me and made me the man I am now,” Wilson said. “I don’t get down about it, I don’t get upset about it. You got to move forward. I feel like God gives His toughest soldiers the toughest battles. I’m going to take it with a grain of salt and keep moving forward.”
Last season, UNT went 5-7 in the regular season, but earned a bowl bid thanks to a strong Academic Progress Rate (APR). However, this season, the Mean Green’s second under head coach Seth Littrell, who was hired prior to last season, UNT went 9-3, won C-USA’s West Division for the first time and played for its first C-USA title.
Littrell clearly has the program firing on all cylinders in Denton and Wilson isn’t surprised.
“We knew the first day he came into the team meeting room with that business look on his face, we knew at that moment that it was going to be a great turnaround for this university, this program,” Wilson said. “It’s cool that (other) people have their beliefs (about us), but we’ve got our own. We felt like we’re in the position we knew we could be in. Now that we’re here, we’re just trying to focus in and keep everything away from the outside and capitalize on the situation.”
And Wilson hopes for one final chance to suit up for the Mean Green and to leave an even bigger lasting impression, something he’s clearly already done.
Stephen Hunt is a Frisco-based freelance writer.