April 8, 2009

Wilson's War: Returning from injury, again

Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has noticed the positive attitude filled with eagerness and excitement out of defensive end Lawrence Wilson the past few days.

While it may not be a stretch for most players to get excited about participating in spring drills and easing back into football again, Wilson's ability to maintain an optimistic attitude is nothing short of incredible given his circumstances.

After all, Wilson has probably had the worst luck of anyone on the team over the course of the past two seasons. Bad enough luck, in fact, that an average player's psyche could be permanently affected in negative manner after enduring what he has had to go through.

Not Wilson's.

The defensive end, which is arguably one of the most effective players in the defensive trenches on the team, has had his last two seasons ended early with serious leg injuries. Last season in week seven against Purdue, a torn ACL forced Wilson to leave the game and be sideline-stricken for the remainder of the season.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Wilson broke his leg the year before in the season-opener against Youngstown State, also forcing him to miss the entire year.

For one of Ohio State's most promising players, Wilson hasn't had enough of a chance to prove himself as the game-changing defensive end many believe he truly is.

"It is hard. You go through two devastating years like he went through, you go through one and that's bad enough," said Heacock. "From a mental standpoint it is tough. But boy he has been good through both (injuries).

"He worked hard this offseason and gotten himself ready," Heacock added. "I think by fall he will be ready to go and with his attitude and his mindset I think he is determined to play and put it out of his mind."

While Wilson's physical activity has been restricted during this year's spring practices, he continues to prepare himself to be a leader next year on perhaps the deepest portion of the Buckeyes squad - the defensive line.

Plagued by devastating injuries the past two seasons, Wilson hopes to put the unfortunate events behind him and produce the way he knows he can.

"I just take it one day as a time. I tell myself I have to go as hard as I can today and I let the tomorrow and the future take care of itself," Wilson said. "If you take it one day at a time, keep your mind focused and positive and everything, it all works out.

"It was definitely tough because I am human. I am only 21 years old," Wilson added. "It gets hard, but I always have my teammates and my coaches around me all the time in my ear, and my parents. We have a great following at Ohio State so the fans are always there."

In order to ensure Wilson stays healthy, the Ohio State coaching staff has elected to hold him out of contact in the spring. Wilson is expected to be back up to 100 percent by the summer.

"When it comes to the summer, I am going to have to prove what I can do again," Wilson said. "It is tough, but it happens… I feel pretty good. I can tell I am getting stronger. It is a slow, slow process, but I can feel myself getting better."

When returning to full contact in the fall, Wilson is expected to reassume a starting end position alongside Thad Gibson, who has gained the reputation as perhaps one of Ohio State's best pass rushers.

Wilson, however, has remained in his position as a leader through his injuries, but the Buckeyes are hoping he can take that leadership role and carry it onto the field next season.

If Wilson could avoid injury, he and Gibson could perhaps make for one of the better sets of defensive ends in the Big Ten Conference. Even when injured, Wilson was there for his teammates.

"Lawrence is one of the vocal leaders on this team. Just having him around encouraging us helps us a lot," Thad. "He shows us a lot of enthusiasm when he is around and he couldn't tell he was even hurt. He is Lawrence every day, and that's what great about him.

"He is crazy. He will get you going," Gibson added about Wilson. "Always cracking jokes, always laughing. He will really build your spirit every day."

Upon returning healthy next season, Wilson will also help build a deep defensive line, too.

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at [email protected].

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