COLUMBIA — Stacy Wilson never had a doubt that her oldest son, Missouri senior linebacker Andrew Wilson, was going to be a football player.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
There were three doctors in the delivery room as a precaution when Stacy, who stands only 5 feet 7 and weighed 112 pounds, gave birth.
“He was born with shoulder pads on,” she said, joking. “He was 9 pounds, 1 ounce. That’s all the doctors were talking about.”
There also was no doubt Andrew, a three-year starter at middle linebacker and a senior captain, wanted to be a Tiger.
Andrew’s dad, Jay, played for the Tigers from 1980-83 and was standout on the 1983 Holiday Bowl team. He graduated as the program’s leading career tackler with 323 and also set the single-season record for tackles with 154 in 1982.
Growing up, Missouri football inevitably seeped into Andrew’s blood.
“Every art project he ever did as a child was Missouri,” Stacy said. “He did a sketch of a Tiger. He had to do a racecar for shop and it’s an MU Tigers racecar. He has a big drawing he did that was Mizzou. It was all black and gold. That influence, of course, was from his dad.”
Andrew spent a lot of time around Missouri football, attending spring games and his dad’s reunions, all the while dreaming that he’d pull on the uniform himself one day.
“From when Andrew and Sam were pretty young, we would go to games and it’s an open house down there,” Jay Wilson said. “As former players, we were in the locker room and the weight room, so he just grew up with it.”
Playing at Raymore-Peculiar, Andrew emerged as one of the top linebackers in the nation as a high school senior. He was Missouri Class 5 defensive player of the year and won the Buck Buchanan Award as the top lineman or linebacker in the Kansas City area.
When it came time to pick a college, Missouri was his top choice — really his only choice.
“Missouri was really the only place I wanted to play,” Andrew said.
It has been a thrill for the family to watch Andrew tread the same path as Jay, who still ranks 12th on the Tigers’ career tackles list and third on the single-season list.
“Thirty years ago in 1983, the senior captain who played middle linebacker was Andrew’s dad, so it’s neat to see that come full circle, and I get a little teary just thinking about it,” said Stacy, who met Jay her junior year at Missouri.
“The first time I saw him run onto the field in that uniform, it was pretty amazing to see,” Jay said.
Along the way, Andrew even developed the same reputation for tenacity he father had.
“The most striking thing is, no matter what the stat sheet says, you want them on your side and you don’t want to have to face them, because they’re going to make it rough for,” said Bobby Bell Jr., Jay’s former teammate. “Both of them, when they get to the play, finish it off.”
Of course, Andrew, who’s 6-3 and 240 pounds, also owns a track record for big hits that Jay, who was an inch shorter and 25 pounds lighter in his playing days, can’t match.
“I don’t really know how I became a big hitter, it just happened,” Andrew said. “The coaches just put us in the right position on the field and it just happens. You’ve got to go full speed every time, and I aim my shoulder right in the middle of their chest.”
Three years in a row, Andrew has won the Tigers’ “Hammer Award” as the team’s biggest hitter.
He has quite a collection — three sledgehammers with golden heads and jet black, three-foot long handles, as well as 10 smaller hammers for individual games — at the Wilsons’ home in rural Raymore.
“They chart every big hit per game and then add them up at the end,” Andrew said. “Whoever got the most gets the big sledgehammer. It’s a cool thing.”
He even won the award as a redshirt freshman despite playing almost exclusive on special teams.
“He’s always been very physical, a very explosive hitter,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “And when he hits you, he just strikes you. That’s what we’ve known him for.”
As a sophomore, Andrew led Missouri with 98 tackles and he was the team’s leading tackler again last season with 79.
Despite missing the equivalent of one game — the second half against Toledo and the first half against Indiana — for a targeting ejection this season, Andrew’s well on his way to winning another sledgehammer.
He is tied with cornerback E.J. Gaines for the team lead with 26 tackles after recording a career-high 17 in last week’s 41-19 win against Arkansas State.
If anything, the suspension seems to have sharpened Andrew, who vowed not to change the way he plays.
“You realize how quickly something could be taken away and I was fortunate enough that it wasn’t an injury,” said Andrew, who has graduated with a bachelor’s in business and now is working on a master’s in education, school counseling and psychology. “I could have missed even more (games), but that showed me the big picture and how fragile a career can be.”
Perhaps Andrew will get a crack at the NFL. If this season is Andrew’s football swan song, though, at least he’s going out with no regrets.
“I’ll miss it a lot,” Andrew said. “It’s been the best four years of my life, so I’m going to miss it a lot and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.