August 16, 2016
Wilson anxious to become two-sport standout
Basketball player hopes to make an impact on the gridiron this fall

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – When asked which was tougher – surviving a Buzz Williams boot camp or a Virginia Tech football practice – Devin Wilson, a point guard masquerading as a receiver these days, decided to run a different route.

“Let’s just say they’re different,” he said, laughing.

Two weeks after Tech’s basketball season ended this past March, Wilson was on the football field participating in the program’s spring practice. Williams, the Hokies’ basketball coach, and Justin Fuente, the new football coach, came to an understanding and allowed Wilson an opportunity to become the school’s latest two-sport athlete.

Yet what started as a trial run is starting to get serious. Wilson continues to improve, adding potential to a depth-shy receiving corps, and his progress has affirmed his decision.

“I’ve been sold,” Wilson said. “I was sold when I first started in the spring. Once I start something, I’m going to try and finish it to the best of my ability. I’m definitely excited for the football season and I’m excited for the basketball season coming up, too, this year. Hopefully, my last year can be a memorable one.”

Wilson spent spring practice simply getting used to playing football again. He played receiver at McKees Rock High School in Pennsylvania and received some Division I interest, but he elected to go the basketball route. Three years out of the game resulted in some rust, so the spring served as a time to re-learn the simple things – getting used to wearing pads again, learning Tech’s warm-up routines and brushing up on drills.

He used the summer to get his body in shape. He stands 6-foot-3, but he weighed 185-190 pounds during basketball season. By the end of the summer, he checked in at 206.

“That was heavier than I expected,” Wilson said. “I wanted to be around 200 or 205. I wanted to go into camp at 205, so if I lost a few pounds, I’d still be around 200. Right now, I’m a little over 200, so I’m keeping my weight up.

“It was really just a matter of eating a lot and drinking a lot of the power shakes that we have, like the Rockin’ Refuel [a low-fat milk shake] and things of that nature. I just really stayed committed to it because I knew I had to gain some weight to take some of the blows and some of the hits that I had to take. So the whole point of was to gain the weight to be able to embrace the physical nature of the game.”

His playing time this season probably hinges on how quickly he learns the nuances of the position. He knows the offense, but he needs to be able to execute his role.

Executing that role can be tough. He needs to be able to get off the line of scrimmage against a guy like Brandon Facyson and run a proper route against a guy like Terrell Edmunds. He needs to be able to make route adjustments against blitzes and find the open spot against zone coverages.

“It’s definitely an evolving process, for sure,” Wilson said. “It took me at least a couple of weeks to get used to getting off jams and get down field and running my routes. I’ve been working on my footwork.

“All that stuff has been a change. But I’m taking the experiences and what I’ve learned from Isaiah [Ford] and those guys has helped me out. I’m trying to implement that into my game.”

Wilson also gets assistance from his brother, Christian, who played football at North Carolina. He gave Devin some pointers about what to expect during August practices and what to look for in position meetings.

How much Wilson plays this season obviously has yet to be determined. The one definite, though, is that Wilson plans to return to the basketball court. He’s not sure when that will be – only that he will be doing so.

“That’s something I’m going to be talking about to Coach Williams and Coach Fuente,” Wilson said. “We’ll figure out how to structure this whole thing. I think we’re all learning at the same time and that’s a good thing. We’re not rushing into anything. We’re not planning anything. We’re just letting things ride out.”

Wilson’s football ride continues. The season starts in a little more than two weeks and it will be interesting to see where he fits in Tech’s scheme.

He only wanted an opportunity to try and play two sports. He has gotten that and plans to make the most of it.

“They said they would let me compete and that’s all I asked for,” Wilson said. “I just wanted to compete and try my best, and if my best wasn’t good enough, then that’s what it was. I thought I had a good spring and I think I’ve been having a good camp so far. I’ve been trying to learn the plays and learn different positions. I’m just going to keep on learning and try to get better.”

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