Johnathan Wilson Looking To Surprise in 2009

July 22, 2009

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Every year each player on the Kansas football team is given a survey to fill out about their teammates for the upcoming season. Among the questions are who will be the biggest surprise on the team. For two years in a row, junior wide receiver Johnathan Wilson has been the player his teammates have selected to surprise everyone.

“It’s an honor to be voted the biggest surprise on the team,” Wilson said. “It makes me feel good that they believe in me. It makes me want to work hard.”

Wilson first earned his teammates’ confidence after a freshman season in which he caught just three passes for 52 yards. He did not disappoint his voters, as in his sophomore season he pulled in 43 receptions for 573 yards and three touchdowns.

Those numbers would have led the Jayhawks in 13 of the previous 22 seasons but Wilson’s stats came in 2008. Despite his great statistics, he played in the shadows of teammates Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, two players who are currently rewriting the school record books.

Wilson showed his ability right off the bat last year. He began the season catching 19 passes in the first three games, including a 10-catch, 179-yard, two-touchdown performance at South Florida.

After a stretch where he didn’t see many passes thrown his way, he finished the 2008 season with 20 receptions in the final five games. He capped the season with a touchdown reception against Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.

Despite having a breakout season in 2008, his teammates once again believe he can do more in 2009.

“Johnathan is one of those guys who has worked all season to get better,” Meier said. “Not only just at the game, but through mental preparation learning the routs, and taking a lot of time to do it. He has put in a lot of work on a daily basis and it has really worked for him.”

Wilson agrees he can improve even more from last season.

“I set my standards pretty high, so I believe I can do a lot more with it,” said Wilson, a Houston, Texas native. “I have a lot more to accomplish and a lot more to prove.”

Wilson doesn’t mind that he doesn’t get the respect or attention that Meier and Briscoe receive. In fact, he uses his “under the radar” status to his advantage.

“It doesn’t bother me, it just motivates me to work harder,” Wilson said. “I think since they did so well last year, they’re going to get a lot more attention. I didn’t get as much attention last season, so I might just be left open and have more opportunities.”

As he gets ready to start his junior year, Wilson is looking forward to playing as a more experienced and confident player.

“(Being an upper-classman) helps a lot,” he said. “I played my first year, but not much, so I didn’t have as much experience. Last year during the spring game I felt a lot more comfortable. I wasn’t worried about anything. I felt really good. I think it will help me out this year.”

As an upper classman, Wilson intends to step forward and be a team leader for the Jayhawks in 2009.

“When asked what I wanted to change about my role on the team, I said I wanted to lead instead of follow,” Wilson explained. “This is something that comes from experience from all the past years and past summers. The past two years I’ve just been following behind Dexton Fields and Marcus Henry. Now I’m trying to lead the other receievers.”

To Wilson, some important roles of a leader are motivating other players on the team and setting good examples for the less-experienced players.

“There are two ways to lead,” said the 6’3″ junior. “You can lead by example or with your voice. I’m not the type of guy who will do a lot of screaming, so I like to lead by example. I like to motivate guys. I don’t really yell at them or anything like that. I don’t think that’s a good way to lead, but everyone is different. If they see me doing things the right way, then hopefully they will want to do it too.”

Wilson has high expectations for his team in 2009. One of the team goals for the season is to win the Big 12 North Division.

“That’s something we talk about every day,” Wilson said. “That’s my number one goal. We’ve done great the past two years, but people still say we can’t compete with the South.”

Wilson also has high expectations for his personal success.

“I’d like to get some recognition nationally or in the Big 12,” he said. “I would also like to improve my blocking. Anyone can catch the ball, but I’d really like to become a better blocker.”

Regardless what happens this season, Wilson knows that his KU teammates believe in his talent.

“Johnathan is that receiver who would do anything to help his team,” senior safety Darrell Stuckey said. “If you look at the film from last year, you’ll see he was the receiver who caught the difficult catches or was making the catches while he was getting hit. He will be a breakout player because he works so hard.”