That athlete was Brandon Golson, who is now committed to play football at the University of South Carolina. But things may have been much different had Wilson not seen Golson’s talent on that day.
It was late April or early May of Golson’s sophomore year, Wilson recalls. Golson was competing for class supremacy against the freshmen, juniors and seniors as the lead leg for his relay team. 100 meters later and Wilson was sold.
“When I (saw) that kid run,” Wilson recalls. “And looking at his size, I said, ‘Wait a minute, Brandon, why aren’t you playing ball?’”
Golson, in his usual nonchalant manner, simply responded that he had thought about it before.
“Well guess what? You’re going to play ball,” Wilson responded.
And Golson did just that. Suiting up against Lake Marion HS for the first varsity game of his career, Golson immediately made his presence known on the hard-hitting Calhoun County defense logging four sacks from his defensive end spot and scoring the first touchdown of his career.
Golson didn’t stop there. His incredible speed that clocks at 4.5 seconds in the forty-yard dash and 79-inch wingspan made him nearly impossible for the opposition to tame. Wilson, who coaches the defensive line at Calhoun County, says there was a lot for Golson to learn, but his natural ability was undeniable.
“He has great hands,” he said. “His first step is unbelievable. He is very explosive. He just gets after it. On a pass rush, at tackle I haven’t found one that can block him yet.”
The opposition couldn’t find one to block him either. Six games into his young career Golson had already totaled a remarkable 18 sacks and 78 tackles.
That was all until a mid-October car wreck in which Golson suffered broken fingers, a broken cheek bone and a cut on his face requiring stitches, cut his season short.
Wilson began sending out highlight film of his defensive gem. Eventually S.C. State and Wyoming offered while several other programs invited Golson to their camps.
On June 11, Golson attended the morning session of the Steve Spurrier Camp at South Carolina. Wilson, who was working the camp as a volunteer, offered one last notion of advice before Golson took the field.
“I told him,” Wilson recalls. "You’re about to have the biggest workout of your life today. He said, ‘Yeah, coach, I’m ready; I understand.’”
“I just did my best and went hard on every play. That’s all I could do,” Golson would later say about the workout.
And everything he could do was plenty. Working one-on-one with South Carolina’s assistant coach in charge of the defense and linebackers coach Ellis Johnson, Golson showed off all the traits that made him nearly unblockable for the Saints during the previous fall. Golson ran a consistent 4.6 forty-yard dash on the Gamecocks’ in-door practice facility’s surface, which the Carolina coaches told Wilson probably translated to a 4.5 on grass.
“I asked him,” Wilson recalls. “‘Coach, do you need him to come for the afternoon session?’ Coach Johnson said, ‘Coach, I’ve done seen all I need to see.’ He said, ‘Coach (Shane) Beamer, we need to get him.’ And the rest is history.”
Beamer, the Gamecocks’ recruiting coordinator, and Johnson offered Golson a scholarship following the 20-minute workout, and Golson happily accepted.
Golson, who says the proximity to home played a big part in that decision, became a Gamecock fan because of circumstances almost as unlikely as those that led him to playing football.
“My friend's uncle, he had worked (at South Carolina) or something,” Golson says. “He would always talk about them, and I had started watching them. And they were alright.”
Golson, probably not even knowing the scope of what had just happened, hadn’t even told his mother of his commitment hours after it took place. But in the weeks following the commitment, Golson is more motivated than ever to get better.
“He’s ripped. He has big forearms,” Wilson says. “He looks like a humanoid. He does need to get stronger. He’s only benching about 300 (pounds) right now. He needs to get stronger, but he has that ‘home-grown’ strength. I really think that he can play on Sunday if he grows and he develops.”
Golson has taken it upon himself to get bigger and develop. Since his commitment, he has hired a personal trainer to help him prepare for his senior season and beyond.
“He’s pumped; he’s pumped,” Wilson says. “And his mom is happy; he’s happy. And that’s all that matters right now. He’s happy that he’s becoming a Gamecock. He’s ready to go. I think somebody has lit a fire. I feel sorry for the other side right now.”
And as for what put Wilson in the right spot at the right time to start this sequence of events? Wilson has no doubts.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” he says. “I don’t think that anything is by chance; I really don’t... It was just meant to be; it was just meant to be.”