Kyrie Wilson is a man of conviction and faith and both beliefs have certainly been tested during his football career.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker put his name on a two-year contract extension this week, joining the growing list of players who have had their names crossed off the team’s pending free agent list.
“To tell you the truth, I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” began Wilson in an interview with bluebombers.com from his offseason home in Bakersfield, CA. “The organization, the fans, the coaches, the team… it just feels like home. I just felt really good being there because of the whole environment.”
The signing is bigger than simply providing Wilson with a sense of stability. It’s also a significant signpost for a guy who has had to work so hard to get to where he is in his career.
Wilson arrived in Winnipeg in 2017, but spent most of the season – save for one game – on the practice roster. He looked primed for more work a year later, but was limited to five games after the late-spring arrival of all-star Adam Bighill.
But in 2019 the 28-year old Fresno State product emerged as a quiet force in the Bombers’ defence. He started every game last year – primarily at weak-side linebacker but also in the middle when Bighill was injured – and finished third on the team in defensive plays, including 63 tackles, three sacks, an interception, five pass knockdowns, three fumble recoveries and three tackles for a loss.
“I felt like it was just a good step-up year for me,” he said. “I hadn’t really played in the years before that and so finally stepping up and showing I could play was big for me. I felt really good about it.
“I know I’ve got a lot more to do, but I feel a lot more confident going into this year. It’s like everything has paid off, from watching Biggie and Jovan (Santos-Knox, in 2018) and learning from them really prepared me for when my time was called.”
Wilson’s best game as a Blue Bomber was arguably the Grey Cup and came with his mother and step dad in the stands to see him play live for the first time in his CFL career.
“That was a great moment to have them there when the team made history after not having won the Grey Cup in a long time,” said Wilson. “That was very special right there. I’m so happy my mom and step dad were there to see it.”
Being away from the game during the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the CFL’s 2020 season provided Wilson with the opportunity to explore other interests.
A deeply-spiritual man, he began posting inspirational messages on his social media platforms before establishing his own website where he writes about his own experiences.
“I’ve been knocked down before. It’s how you learn from it,” Wilson explained. “Going back to my college days, I had committed to Oregon and then the offer was pulled after the season was over. I was released from the (Oakland) Raiders and had to sit out a year. I was released in the CFL before coming back. All of that plays a part in my story about never giving up. Another door always opens.
“(The website and his messages) were inspired by the things I’ve gone through in my life and the feeling I had that it just can’t be me that’s had these experiences. Especially now with COVID, I know people are probably going through some things.
“Sometimes we hold stuff in, but it’s OK to release it, to talk about that pain or share it with someone else. I feel like in this quarantine there’s been a lot of downs, but there are some positives. Spending time with your family and friends is important, too.”
Wilson’s goal is to continue to preach his inspirational messages even after we come through the pandemic and he gets back on the football field.
“I always wanted to help inspire people,” he said. “At the same time, I wasn’t comfortable talking in front of people. It’s kind of like stage-fright in a sense. This helped me, too, because it pushed me out of my comfort zone in talking about some of the things I’ve gone through in life.
“I always tell myself I should get too comfortable because God has more in store for me. I want to keep pushing forward and trust He has a plan for me.”
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