MYRTLE BEACH — Chocolate Wilson did all he could back in September to convince a member of Myrtle Beach’s training staff to allow him off his crutches.
About a month after surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, the highly coveted defensive back put his crutches to the side and did his best to flash a big smile while taking a few brief steps. The answer was the same – from the trainers and certainly from coach Mickey Wilson.
Chocolate Wilson would not be back on the field until he was ready to go.
Now, he is.
After missing the entire 10-game regular season with that left knee injury and procedure, one of the state’s best defensive players will suit up at 7:30 Friday night when Myrtle Beach plays Manning in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs.
It’s turned into a slight rallying point for a team that once again has realistic state-championship aspirations.
“I think it can be a big morale boost, as far as he’s one of our leaders,” Mickey Wilson said. “He’s done a great job of that all year even though he hasn’t been playing. From a leadership standpoint, he’s really been there for us. Then you throw him back on the field.”
What Chocolate Wilson will provide athletically remains to be seen. But what he’s done in the past is plenty of reason for solid hope.
Last season, he intercepted six passes, put up 39 tackles – including three for loss – forced two fumbles and scored a pair of defensive touchdowns. He was named to The Sun News’ Toast of the Coast all-area team.
The notoriety didn’t stop there. During the offseason, he was mentioned in a story in Sports Illustrated projecting him as a college starter as a true freshman in 2013.
By the time his senior season at Myrtle Beach was slated to begin, he had four college offers from BCS-level schools. Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina State and Purdue all had official offers on the table. Wilson said this week that none of those four schools have wavered.
“Everything’s still the same,” he said. “Everyone’s still looking at me as a corner. I’m hearing it from every coach. I guess I did well my sophomore [and junior] season.”
The coaching staff for the 76th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas thought so, too. Last month, he was named to the South Carolina roster despite having not played a game this season.
It was further reason why Myrtle Beach is so happy to have the senior leader back.
“He’s not really just a senior. He’s Chocolate Wilson,” starting linebacker Sean Michael Orcutt said. “It’s something to rally about. It’s a great player. It’s someone else we can throw on the field and trust and know we can stand behind. He has our back, and we have his, too.”
At the same time, Wilson, his teammates and coaches are anxious to see how adding him back into the mix changes things. It’s not exactly like the Myrtle Beach defense has been struggling.
The Seahawks (9-1) are coming off back-to-back shutouts against Georgetown and North Myrtle Beach and have held six opponents to 14 points or less. Cornerbacks Jack Montgomery (52 tackles, three interceptions) and Kelton Greene (22 tackles, four interceptions) have for the most part played brilliantly without Wilson. The safety combination of C.J. Cooper, Trell Harrell and Malik Waring has also done its part.
Mickey Wilson said he’ll likely use Chocolate Wilson some at safety, a move that will allow Cooper and Harrell – two of the team’s bigger offensive weapons – a chance to get some rest.
Chocolate Wilson doesn’t care where he plays, just that he does. After being cleared to play last Tuesday, he knows he no longer has to convince anyone he can walk a few feet without crutches.
“I’m going to do what they ask me to do and play my position,” he said. “I’m going to come in and play my role and take one step at a time.”
Contact IAN GUERIN at email@example.com