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Wilson set standard for Rams moving into the NFL

By Staff | Jul 31, 2020


SHEPHERDSTOWN — From Howard High School, in Maryland, to Shepherd College to the National Football League.

That’s the straight-line route running back Wayne Wilson took just before he spent nine seasons in the NFL.

The rangy 6-foot-2 athlete was successfully recruited to Shepherd by then-coach Walter Barr when Shepherd was a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics ranks.

Playing for Barr’s usual run-first offense, Wilson had ample opportunity to put on view his inside running skills. Wilson and the Rams earned their stripes running between the ends and running between the hash marks.

His final season at Shepherd as a four-year starter was 1978, and in the spring of the next year Wilson became the 12th round selection of the Houston Oilers. In today’s NFL there are only seven rounds in the draft, so it is conceivable he would never have found his way onto anybody’s roster under these 2020 conditions.

But in 1979, Wilson became a member of the New Orleans Saints, a team that he stayed with into the 1986 season. In 1983, he was named the Saints’ offensive player of the year after rushing for 787 yards, totaling 178 receiving yards and adding 239 yards on kickoff returns. At the close of that season, Wilson had scored 11 touchdowns.

By the end of the 1986 season, he was with the Minnesota Vikings and then it appeared he might be out of football as the 1987 season approached.

However, a player strike fumed as the 1987 season loomed ahead. Wilson joined the Washington Redskins as a “replacement player” that year and the Redskins were able to win the NFL championship.

Now age 62, the 1978 NAIA All-American was selected for the Shepherd Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986, the organization’s first year in existence.

Years after his NFL days were over, he returned to Shepherd, after Monte Cater had been in Shepherdstown for years, to become a Shepherd assistant football coach. His last years as a college assistant coach were when he mentored the Rams’ tight ends and fullbacks. His knowledge acquired when playing against the best football players in the world could also be passed on to the Shepherd athletes as they produced some unbeaten seasons and strong drives through the NCAA Division II national playoffs.

Wilson had the longest NFL career of any player ever seen at Shepherd.

And he was a valued contributor right from the outset of his rookie season in New Orleans.

His years in the NFL helped give Shepherd more credibility, when starting lineups were being announced on Sunday afternoons and “the starting running back for the Saints is Wayne Wilson from Shepherd College in West Virginia.”