He could have let loose, yelled, screamed and reacted the way so many other 23 year olds would have if put in the same situation.
He could have asked ‘Why?’ Could have done back flips, run the 40-yard dash and showed all the skills that made him a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
He could have done all that and more. But David Wilson didn’t.
Instead, he climbed atop a podium overlooking the Giants’ practice fields. The same practice fields he’d collapsed to the ground on eight days before. He looked at the media, who anxiously looked backed. Then, he put everything into a perspective that was wise beyond his years.
“Even if one dream seems to fade away,” Wilson said with his signature smile spread across his face, “set another goal and set another dream and try to reach that.”
There was no remorse, no sadness and no anger in the voice of one who had every right to feel so. Even when his eyes filled with the tears that quickly rushed down his face, Wilson still managed to flash a smile and assure everyone his tears were that “of joy.”
It didn’t matter that spinal stenosis cut Wilson’s career short after just three years. The way Wilson saw it, he still got three years. He wanted to play in the NFL. He wanted to score touchdowns.
“And I did that,” Wilson said.
He reminisced of his goals throughout his career, starting from pee wee and moving onto the NFL. When he was young, he wanted to be the fastest kid on his team. Then, he wanted to score a touchdown and be a starter. When he reached high school, he wanted to break and set records.
He wanted to live life the right way, making both of his parents proud. With each check mark he placed next to each of his goals, more and more people began to line up behind the speedy, bubbly, personable Wilson.
He became the fastest player on his team. He became a starter. He set records and lived life the right way. He was drafted into the NFL where that same bubbly and laughable personality managed to sneak up on any that crossed his path. Rarely could a teammate encounter him and not leave with a matching grin.
Wilson hasn’t stopped smiling. His personality hasn’t been stripped of him. The only thing gone is his title as a football player. But there was much more to him than that.
He was described by teammate Victor Cruz as the “heart and soul” of the team, someone who had an impact on the Giants. But that impact was felt just as much on the field, as off.
At least half of it still will.
Wilson said he still isn’t sure exactly where this next phase of his life will take him. He’s thought about broadcasting and coaching. Then again, his life could take him in a completely other direction.
There’s no certainty. No guarantee. The only thing Wilson knows is that it only goes one direction from here.
“When life knocks you down, I always say plan to land on your back because if you can look up, you can get up,” Wilson said. “But if you’re flat on your face, that can kill your spirit. Always think of it in that aspect – if you can look up, you can get up.
“So far, I can look up and I plan on getting up and living my dream and setting another one for me to live out.”