Mike Wilson’s career resume sparkles. It’s something anyone would be proud to call their own.
High school All-American football player.
College football career at University of Dayton.
Drafted by Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL in 1968.
Played in five professional football league until retiring in 1983.
Long career in the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.
However, Wilson admits the path he was on early in life wasn’t always paved with polished stones.
“My family structure had gone apart,” said Wilson, a 1965 graduate of Wilmington High School. “My dad left us and mom had six kids. At the time I was headed for the streets.”
Enter Paul Dean “Oakie” Waddell, who came in to Wilson’s life as the young man affectionately known as “Big Daddy” was beginning his freshman year at Wilmington High School.
“He (Waddell) was a Godsend really, not only to me but others,” Wilson said when reflecting on his coach’s impact on his life.
Waddell passed away Feb. 22 at his home in Wilmington. He was 93.
“Waddell saw something in me, that I could go farther than other people,” Wilson said. “Not only Waddell, but the school system at Wilmington.”
Changing direction wasn’t easy for Wilson. He was walking his life path on shards of glass guided by the enemy. Waddell’s faith allowed him to reach Wilson in a way others hadn’t to that point in his life.
“I was headed in the wrong direction,” Wilson admits. “I needed that structure. He said he could see I was in a battle and I needed to get on the right side of the fence.”
Wilson used football as a vehicle to change direction. He was excited to go to practice. He was excited to work hard. He was excited to be a Hurricane.
“Coach told us when you put on the (Wilmington) uniform, you represented more than yourself. We were playing for our school, our city. The bond we formed, still today … we formed a family.”
Wilson also learned how to be a man, how to raise and take care of his own family when that time arrived. He learned how to be a friend.
One day, as Waddell’s health was faltering, he called Wilson and told him to come to Wilmington. They needed to talk.
“When I got there and sat down, he began to go backward,” Wilson said. “He said, ‘I had to snatch you up and I apologize’.”
Wilson was quick to respond.
“Coach,” Wilson said in his deep voice. “I appreciated that. It was the change in direction I needed. I miss him.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or on Twitter @wnjsports