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Valencia's Jay Jay Wilson: The future is now

Valencia wide receiver is taking advantage of his early taste of the varsity game

Posted: August 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Valencia wide receiver Jay Jay Wilson earned a spot on varsity last year as a freshman with his size and athleticism. Valencia wide receiver Jay Jay Wilson earned a spot on varsity last year as a freshman with his size and athleticism.
Valencia wide receiver Jay Jay Wilson earned a spot on varsity last year as a freshman with his size and athleticism.

Valencia freshman wide receiver Jay Jay Wilson could see the end zone.

He kept stretching and dragging defenders forward.

He was a mere couple of yards from giving Valencia an overtime lead in last year’s season opener against a Notre Dame program that is one of the most highly respected in Southern California.

Then — pop.

A golden helmet struck the football and it flew out of Wilson’s hands.

Notre Dame recovered and eventually won the game 17-14 — a heartbreaker.

“I felt I lost the game for us. I felt it was all my fault,” Wilson says. “I’ve been playing this sport my whole life, and I don’t like losing. When it feels like it was my fault we lost, it almost feels like someone in my family got taken away.”

There’s this saying in sports that you can never truly succeed until you’ve tasted a little bit of failure.

That was Wilson’s failure — very early in his career.

It’s an interesting thing about Valencia High football — allowing young players to come in and make mistakes early.

A lot of them have blossomed because of it.

State all-time yardage leader and quarterback Michael Herrick started as a sophomore.

New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen played a little as a freshman, then started as a sophomore.

University of Minnesota defensive back Brock Vereen was another sophomore starter.

Senior and highly recruited two-way Viking Tedric Thompson started as a freshman.

Not to say Wilson is one of them, but it’s evident that with his size and ability at such a young age he could make a lasting impact on the program.

“As he matures as a player he has a shot at that,” says Valencia head coach Larry Muir of Wilson. “His
competitiveness and drive will determine that. His physical skill set is on par with those guys. Is it the other part, though, will that come with it?”

Wilson caught 21 passes for 252 yards last season, though he was less of a factor as the season went on.

Nonetheless, he is expected to be featured more in Valencia’s passing game, which has the potential to be the best in the Foothill League.

Valencia has a veteran quarterback in senior two-year starter Sean Murphy and lots of talented players to throw to as Valencia’s top three receivers are back for this season — Thompson, diminutive, quick junior Malik Townsend and Wilson.

Wilson grabbed the attention of the Valencia coaching staff immediately last summer.

First of all, he was 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, but second, he was a physical receiver.

In the middle of the summer, he practiced with the varsity as an incoming freshman.

“There was a play and I’m going up against (then-senior defensive back) Ricky Vega and all the receivers are getting knocked down. Ricky lines up across from me and goes, ‘Fresh meat, fresh meat,’ and I was like, ‘I just have to play my game,’” Wilson says. “Coach Muir calls a slant and when I go to catch the slant, Ricky tried to come through and slap it and I flipped him, and the whole team is like, ‘Whoo!’

“I was just going out there having fun and Coach Muir saw something in me,” Wilson adds. “I asked him, ‘Do I have to come back at 3:30 for the freshman (practice)?” He said, ‘No. You just go home and rest. We’ll see you tomorrow at practice.’”

That led to the season, when Wilson made the early mistake but earned some valuable experience.

One player, in particular, took notice of Wilson’s potential and this year has really decided to mentor Wilson — Thompson.

“I try my hardest to work with Jay Jay because I see so much potential,” Thompson says. “When he got brought up, I kind of thought because I knew he was an offensive player, it brought up memories of me and Brock Vereen.

Brock took me under his wing. I wanted to do the same thing with Jay Jay. I’m with him a lot off the field. We’re very close — like brothers. Whatever he needs help with, even if it’s not football.”

There is one thing that Wilson knows he needs to improve on.

It’s his temper.

He hates to lose and hates to get shown up.

But he realizes if he acts out that opponents will feed on that.

Muir understands that Wilson is only 15 years old, but knows that he has to grow up quickly as a varsity player.

“I was watching the NFL Network and (Hall of Fame wide receiver) Michael Irvin was talking to the NFL rookies saying, ‘Your athletic ability has taken you places that your mind is not ready for,’” Muir says, making a comparison to Wilson. “Yet that’s where his growth needs to come from.”

Wilson is expected to be a major factor this season.

Murphy says Wilson makes the bad throws look good because he makes the difficult catches.

On top of that, he’s a young man who has learned from at least one early mistake.

He’s a sophomore, though, and he’ll make more.

But he understands that there will be a time when he’ll have to be even more like Herrick, the Vereens and Thompson.

“When Ted’s gone and these guys are gone, all the pressure will come to me,” Wilson says. “Last year, I could be the kid in the back. I was the freshman that comes to play. We had (Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year) Ryan Gorman and everyone else. It’s almost time for me to step it up.”



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