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From West Rusk to the NFL: A look at Tyree Wilson's rise to success

Former teammates and coaches recount their favorite memories of Wilson and the kind of player he is on and off the field.

NEW LONDON, Texas — It's not often that major colleges and even NFL teams come through the small town of New London, Texas.

However, it's also not often that you have a talent as big as Tyree Wilson, both literally and figuratively. Wilson checks in at 6'6 and 270 pounds, with an unbelievable wingspan of over 7 feet.

It's really no surprise that teams have always been all over Tyree Wilson and his talent. It all began at West Rusk here in East Texas, where he first made a name for himself on the playing field.

"When you have a kid like Tyree roll through, you definitely remember him," said West Rusk head coach Nick Harrison. "I think the biggest thing is that you don't realize what you have until it's gone."

From West Rusk, he committed to Texas A&M, followed by a transfer to Texas Tech, where he became arguably the best edge rusher in the country.

Now, he's projected to be a top 10 pick in the NFL draft with some mock drafts putting him as high as the second overall pick to the Houston Texans.

Former teammate Nick Ballard was also a defensive end at the time that Wilson was beginning his road to success in New London. However, Ballard and his teammates knew that Wilson was special. Now, they look back and realize how right they were.

"It's crazy, we always talked about it. Even after he left, the blowup was crazy. Texas A&M and all these big schools coming to a small school like this to check out a big-time prospect, was really awesome," Ballard said. "Just to know a guy that's going to be drafted that high is really cool, especially for this community and all the guys we played with."

Tate Winings is a current player on the West Rusk Raiders football team. However, he's known Tyree Wilson since he was much younger - since his brother was the same age. He's always stayed close with Wilson, but he was shocked when the Texas Tech star reached out with the surprise of a lifetime for Winings and his brother.

"He asked me and my brother if we wanted to come out there to the NFL Draft and we said of course! We would love to, I wouldn't miss that," Winings said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And it's crazy seeing somebody from the small town of New London, or West Rusk, to go be on Good Morning Football and accomplishing all this."

If you ask anyone around West Rusk, they'll tell you the kind of player Tyree Wilson was at any level. More importantly, they'll emphasize how great of a person he is off the field. As the say, the most defining part of Tyree Wilson is his character.

"He wanted to give back to his community. He realizes what everyone did for him when he was here," Harrison said. "He's selecting one male athlete and one female athlete and he's going to help provide for their college needs. Once again, a testament to his character."

No matter where Tyree Wilson gets drafted on Thursday night, you can guarantee that he'll have an entire community right there to support him every step of the way.

And they can all say that they witnessed the beginning of the Tyree Wilson success story, right there in New London.

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