Gary Patterson has always preferred to talk about the guys with stories, and one of the best stories of early fall camp was fifth year senior Montrel Wilson.
After bursting onto the scene as a true freshman, when he played in all 12 games, started seven, and finish fifth on the team in total tackles with 61, Wilson missed most of 2016 with injury. He battled back a season later to play in seven contests - starting four - but was still dealing with injury issues. Last year, he wasn’t available until the Cheez-It Bowl, a game he decided to participate in after a long talk with Gary Patterson. “Him and I had a conversation right before bowl games at the end of the season - it kind of came down to he would have to decide if he was going to be in or be out. So I said why don’t you just try and see what it’s like, play special teams, so he played in the bowl game, played special teams, played a little bit.”
That was enough to get him to stick around, and despite not being a full participant in summer work, he did all that he could. Two days into fall camp, Patterson was raving about him, saying “the thing I have been most impressed by him, he’s been a great leader to the younger guys. You always see him sitting with somebody all the time, trying to give them a little wisdom.” While it was clear he wouldn’t be full bore, GP said he was happy to get him through two days of camp and that they would take a day to day approach with the 6’3” player originally out of Keller.
Though Wilson would have likely been on a snap count, the hope was that his experience would be valuable to a young linebacking unit that doesn’t have a ton of depth. “He gives us an older guy right now - if we can get 15-20, 30 reps out of him a bowl game, then with the other guys growing up, I think it’s going to be a big positive for us.” Now, that leadership void will be filled by Garret Wallow and a host of young guys trying to make a name for themselves at one of the most demanding defensive positions in Patterson’s scheme.
When Patterson met with the media following the second scrimmage of 2019 Monday, he said that Wilson had missed the last several practices and would not be returning to the team. According to Patterson, in addition to working with true freshmen Dee Winters and Dylan Jordan, safety La’Kendrick Van Zandt has moved down a level to work with the linebacker unit. At 6’1” and 206 pounds, he has the size of many former safeties to have made the switch under GP, and the exceptional athlete has the football smarts to make the adjustment in the playbook as well. Sophomore Ben Wilson and redshirt freshman Demauryon Holmes will also be competing for playing time in that role.
As for Wilson, it’s a bummer to see such a talented guy have zero injury luck over the course of his career. But, based on what we heard from GP at the start of camp, he’ll land on his feet. “He’s a really smart dude. He’s always been a really smart dude. Very cerebral - anything he does in his life, he really thinks through.” We wish him the best of luck in whatever the future holds for Montrel.