ANADARKO — Some observers notice Sheldon Wilson's eye-popping stats; the Anadarko senior ran for 3,335 yards and set state records with 57 rushing and 64 total touchdowns in 2011.
Others see Wilson's blazing speed, yet remarkable patience as he waits for holes to open up, or his elusive moves that few boast.
But Tyler Melton notices something completely different. He is most proud of how his lifelong friend has grown up during the past couple of years.
“Going through junior high, he felt like he was better than everybody else,” said Melton, Anadarko's quarterback. “He was kind of cocky. ... Grades and school didn't mean that much to him.
“But now he knows what he needs to do when the time comes. He's a great kid and he makes good choices.”
Wilson, The Oklahoman's All-State Offensive Player of the Year, didn't always know when to buckle down and take school seriously, and now he's paying the price for that.
“Freshman and sophomore year, I was a knucklehead,” Wilson admits. “I just did enough to get by with D's and C's.”
But after his sophomore year, when Wilson started getting attention from college recruiters, he began to realize just how much potential he had on the gridiron.
To capitalize on that potential, he knew he had to start making better grades.
“I just stopped playing around in class,” Wilson said. “I did my work and got all B's.
“I was on principal's honor roll that year; I liked that.”
But even with his improved attitude and academic performance, making up for those early mistakes is an uphill climb.
Anadarko coach Kent Jackson said he thinks Wilson would have offers from BYU, Kansas State, North Texas, Texas Tech and Tulsa if his academics were in order.
But as it stands, he holds no Division I offers.
Wilson is doing everything he can to get himself eligible by February's national signing day. He's continuing to take the ACT to get that score up, and, perhaps most impressively, he is going to night school to retake core classes from his “knucklehead” days and replace those bad grades with good ones.
“His grades are coming up,” Jackson said. “Once you take off a D and put in an A or B, the GPA will shoot up there.”
If he can't get eligible by February, there is still an outside shot that he could start his college career at the Division I level if a school is still interested and has a scholarship available in May.
But he would likely have to settle for Plan B.
He is getting the most attention right now from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, a junior college in Miami that has produced several NCAA Division I and NFL players.
Golden Norsemen coach Dale Patterson attended some Anadarko games and practices this season and stays in regular contact with Wilson and Jackson.
“I really like NEO,” Wilson said. “I want to go there if Division I doesn't work out, because I know they can make me a D-1 player.”
Regardless of where he plays college football, Wilson wrapped up a historic high school career with a huge performance on the biggest stage.
He accounted for 286 total yards and five touchdowns in Anadarko's 35-18 win over Cascia Hall, which secured the school's first-ever football state championship.
Jackson said the game showed a lot about Wilson, who spent most of the regular season done at halftime of games after several 50-plus yard runs.
“I was extremely proud of Sheldon, just for the fact that he's used to breaking a 50 or 60-yarder every four or five plays,” Jackson said.
“He can get four and five yards at a time and be a durable back. People question how big he is, but he ran 38 times against one of the best defenses in the state. That game showed you a whole different Sheldon.”
Ditto for the last two years off the field.
“I can speak for all the rest of the guys on the team and the student body; everybody likes Sheldon and enjoys being around him,” Melton said.