Laid-back linebacker out to inspire others

If you’ve ever been inside the Winnipeg Blue Bombers locker room, Kyrie Wilson probably wasn’t the first person you noticed.

That’s not a slight on the third-year linebacker; it’s just that the soft-spoken Wilson usually lets his play do the talking for him.

“I’m usually quiet. I’m more laid-back, but at the same time, I can have fun and all of that,” said Wilson from his home in Bakersfield, Calif. “But I am more laid-back I’d say.”

Nobody has seen Wilson at IG Field this year owing to the cancelled 2020 CFL season. But with no football to be played, people are seeing a different side of Wilson. The former Fresno State Bulldog has devoted his spare time to starting a blog and posting “life talk” videos on Instagram where he shares personal experiences in hopes of helping people spiritually and mentally.

“The feedback has been all positive. Even some of my old teammates are saying ‘Keep it up. Keep going,’ and basically how they’re proud of me. They also look kind of surprised like ‘Dang, this is you Ky?’ I think they’re all more surprised more than anything,” said Wilson, who also recently did a talk at his former high school.

His latest post, titled Prison Mindset, is about the importance of letting go of past mistakes. He has another one, Who Said Your Season Over?, where he talks about how 2020 has presented challenges nobody anticipated, but by no means does that mean this year is a writeoff.

“To tell you the truth, this is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to inspire people. At the same time… I look kind of shy at first. I really don’t like talking in front of people or being in front of a camera. I get nervous, but you know, I always feel like God is pushing me to grow,” he said.

“One of the main things I want to grow is stepping out of my comfort zone and helping inspire people. With COVID, I was sitting there thinking ‘What’s something I can do to help people out?’ Because I know a lot of people are going through things, especially now. So I just thought now is the time to get out of my comfort zone and take a chance.”

Wilson signed with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2016, reuniting him with quarterback Derek Carr. They were teammates in 2012-13 at Fresno State. But the reunion didn’t last long as Wilson was released at the end of training camp. As heartbreaking as it was to get released from an NFL team, especially one that’s only a couple-hour drive away from your hometown, Wilson believes that experience has helped him cope with the 2020 CFL season getting axed.

“It’s tough, it’s frustrating, but at the same time, you got to see the positives in everything,” he said. “It kind of reminded me of when I had to sit out a year after my time in the NFL before coming up to Canada. Going through that experience, you just got to know it’s going to work out at the end of the day.”

While everything did end up working out for Wilson, it took a while to get there. In his first season in Winnipeg in 2017, Wilson only saw action in one game. He was expected to challenge for a starting spot the next season, but then the Bombers signed Adam Bighill, who spent the previous season in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints.

But with standout linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox signing with Edmonton prior to the 2019 campaign, the door was officially open for Wilson. He played all 18 games in the 2019 season, registering 63 defensive tackles, three sacks, one interception and a defensive touchdown.

Wilson saved arguably his best performance for when it mattered most, in the 33-12 Grey Cup victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, where he had five tackles and a pass knockdown on a two-point convert attempt.

The guy who kept him out of the starting lineup in 2018 is a big reason why Wilson was able to take that next step in 2019.

“In the off-season, I watched a lot of film and was going over the playbook and just making sure I really knew the position… The big thing too was Adam Bighill, he helped me a lot. We went over plays and stuff. I connected with him and it really helped me out a lot,” Wilson said.

There’s never an ideal time to have your pro career put on pause, but for 28-year-old Wilson, who’s just entering his prime, it has to sting even more. However, you wouldn’t know it by talking to him. He’s not dwelling on what he’s missing out on. Instead, he’s looking at the situation as an opportunity to spend more time with family and try something new with his website. While his blog and videos are intended to help others, he hopes it makes him a better football player when he hopefully returns to the gridiron in 2021.

“I’m definitely going to try to be more talkative on the field, not being as quiet as I used to be,” he said. “I just want to be able to speak up and help the team in any way possible.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.

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