This week isn’t the first trip to the Cotton Bowl for Missouri senior linebacker Andrew Wilson.
Six years ago, when Wilson was a junior at Raymore-Peculiar High School, he happened to be driving through Dallas on New Year’s Day.
He and his father, Jay, who played linebacker for the Tigers during 1980-83, got tickets for the 2008 Cotton Bowl and relished Missouri’s 38-7 romp against Arkansas.
“Toward the end of the game, half the stadium was empty, but the Missouri side was full,” Jay Wilson said. “You definitely remember that.”
Of course, a lot has changed in the last six years.
Missouri moved from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference.
The Cotton Bowl moved from its traditional location in Fair Park, Texas, where the game was played during 1937-2009, to AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys’ state-of-the-art marvel.
Andrew grew up to become a three-year starter for the Tigers and will have a chance to crack the program’s top 10 career tackles list as Missouri returns to the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Of course, we had no idea all this would happen,” Jay Wilson said. “We were in Texas for a combine and he was a junior back then, so we weren’t even really thinking about college yet or playing in that game. We were just enjoying the day.”
Now, Andrew Wilson has 317 career tackles, which ranks 15th on Missouri’s career list and trails safety Jason Simpson by 14 tackles for 10th place.
Perhaps more important, in between Andrew and Simpson on that list is Jay Wilson, who graduated as the Tigers’ career leader with 323 tackles.
That means Andrew Wilson, who won Missouri’s Hammer Award as the team’s most ferocious hitter all four seasons, is only seven tackles from owning family bragging rights.
“Obviously, I wanted to be just as good as him,” Andrew Wilson said. “You want to walk in your dad’s footsteps, but I never really thought about the tackle thing as a goal. I knew growing up how many tackles he had, but I never thought about it when I got here.”
The first time it was brought to Andrew’s attention was during Missouri’s postseason banquet after the Texas A&M game. He trailed his father by 17 tackles before recording 11 against Auburn in the SEC championship game.
This season, Andrew has had at least six tackles in 10 of the last 11 games.
“It would be pretty cool, because I grew up hearing about how good he was from his friends and I used to watch tapes when I was younger of his games,” Andrew said. “Lately, I’ve become aware of it. We’ll see. I’m pretty close.”
Jay Wilson said he hopes Andrew — who was the defensive MVP in Missouri’s last bowl game, a 41-24 win against North Carolina in the 2011 Independence Bowl — blows right by him.
“Absolutely, I hope he does it,” Jay said. “I hope he gets 20 tackles. I played probably a lot more snaps than he did. Granted, I only played two years, but it was against teams that ran the ball 80 or 90 percent of the time. Personally, I hope he breaks it and breaks it in a big way.”
Andrew Wilson, who leads Missouri with 98 tackles this season, has never focused much on individual goals or achievements. It’s part of the reason he was voted captain and is beloved by teammates.
“He’s all about actions and he doesn’t do a lot of talking, but when he does talk, you know it’s serious and you’ve got to listen,” junior defensive end Markus Golden said.
“That’s the type of guy he is, a hard worker and a good guy you can follow. I bet deep down inside he wants to get that record. If you can go home to your dad and brag that you beat his record, that’s always great.”
Of course, Andrew Wilson also realizes he owes a lot to his father.
“We’re both pretty tough,” he said. “I think I got my physicalness and toughness from him and the way he played. He was a great player here, and it’s cool to be in his company.”
Still, that won’t stop the son from reminding the father that he broke his family record, assuming it happens.
“I’ll definitely give him a hard time,” Andrew said, “but it’ll all be in good fun.”