By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
HOLLY POND —
For high school seniors all across the country, National Signing Day offers a chance for athletes to extend their playing careers while having a little bit of fun during their 15 minutes of fame.
Some players choose their school from a selection of hats, while some don a personal, embroidered jersey. In some rare instances, the athlete will even present a live animal representing their future team’s mascot.
For Holly Pond’s Ben Wilson, however, theatrics weren’t necessary for the stoic senior.
The Bronco inked a football scholarship with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ (NAIA) Missouri Valley on Wednesday, surrounded by his parents, Ty and Robin Wilson, coaches, family and friends.
Wilson, who plans to play tight end, was both happy and relieved the recruiting process was finally over.
“It was a tough decison,” he said. “I think I got it right in the end, though.”
The two-sport student-athlete said his choice ultimately came down to the Vikings and Belhaven University, another NAIA institution located in Jackson, Miss.
Wilson added his on-campus visit of Missouri Valley last week is what set the two schools apart.
“It’s a lot different where I’m going,” he said. “Everybody there expects to win and expects to compete for national championships every single year.
“I just decided on Tuesday night that I wanted to be apart of that winning tradition.”
Missouri Valley is one of the top NAIA schools in the country, boasting 17 conference championships and 11 national championship game appearances, both highest among all current NAIA programs.
Holly Pond football coach, Nate Ayers, said he believes Wilson made a very good decision.
“It’s a big day for him and for Holly Pond,” he said. “That’s a big-time program with big-time athletes. He has a legitimate chance to play for a national title all four years he’s there.”
Wilson will move to Marshall, Mo. — home of the Vikings — sometime in early August and enroll for fall classes shortly before preparing for the season.
The Bronco said his main goal is to contribute right away, no matter how small or big those contributions might be.
“I don’t care where I’m at or what I do,” he said. “I just want to help as soon as I get there. Whether it’s in practice or on special teams.”
As a freshman entering a top-flight program, Wilson knows he may have to wait patiently for his turn on the field.
“I understand that as a freshman, I’ll probably end up on the scout team,” he said. “But that means I’ll get to help out the defense, help them get better. That’s what I want to do.”
Ayers said he knows Missouri Valley will be getting not just a great football player, but a great person as well.
“You know, if I had a son, I’d want him to be just like Ben,” the coach said. “He’s a good kid. He always keeps his grades up and there’s never been a single problem off the field.
“When you see those characteristics, it’s not hard to see why he’s been successful here.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com.