Three and a half years ago, Andrew Wilson came to Indiana University as a walk-on running back.
But after seeing only a few carries his first three years, the Columbus East graduate has played a larger role in the Hoosiers’ 6-6 season, one that has them bowl-bound for the first time since 2007. IU will play Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday at Yankee Stadium in New York.
“In terms of our senior class, it means a lot,” Wilson said. “At the end of our freshman year, this was definitely a big goal. Knowing we’re going to a bowl game for the first time, it’s awesome.”
The fourth-year junior saw the most extensive action of his career when he carried 15 times for 52 yards and a touchdown and caught a pass for 14 yards in the Old Oaken Bucket game win at Purdue to close the regular season. He benefited from the absence of injured starter Jordan Howard, taking the second-most carries for the Hoosiers that day behind Devine Redding.
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“I knew going into the game that Jordan Howard wouldn’t be playing, and I’ve always kind of been in that situation if someone goes down,” Wilson said. “I learned a lot from them. I knew what I had to do in order to get the win.”
Wilson has come a long way since his freshman year, when he did not play at all. He carried eight times for 45 yards and a touchdown in the 2013 season opener against Indiana State but did not carry the ball again that year or last year.
But this spring, Andrew Wilson was awarded a scholarship by head coach Kevin Wilson (no relation), and he hasn’t disappointed. He has 23 carries for 68 yards an a score and has continued to contribute on special teams.
“Going into my freshman year, I knew there was a 95 percent chance I wasn’t going to play my freshman year,” Andrew Wilson said. “But I came here to play. I didn’t come here to be a walk-on. I knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
Running backs coach Deland McCullough has seen him progress.
“Andrew has been great since he came in,” McCullough said. “He’s come a long way. He was a big, strong kid coming in, got better with his change of direction and his pad level. A couple years ago, he became somebody who was very trustworthy in the protection game. He came in, busts his butt and works hard. He’s always positive. All he does is wait for his opportunity, and he had his opportunity a couple weeks ago, and he took advantage of it.”
That didn’t go unnoticed. The week after the Purdue game, Andrew Wilson and senior receiver Andre Booker were selected as the Hoosiers’ Outstanding Walk-On Players of the Year.
“It was a great award to achieve,” Wilson said. “It means a lot. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to receive that award without all my teammates.”
With Howard’s status for Saturday still up in the air, McCullough said Redding, Wilson and fellow backups Ricky Brookins and Mike Majette all could see carries.
“We play all the guys,” McCullough said. “Those guys have earned the right to play because of the full body of work. They’ve earned the trust of everybody in practice. It’s just getting opportunities based on how the flow of the game is going.”
Because he did not play in a game his freshman year, Andrew Wilson was able to redshirt and has another year of eligibility remaining. But he said as of right now, he isn’t planning to return for a fifth season.
Andrew Wilson is on track to graduate in May with a degree in health care policy management and a minor in business entrepreneurship. He did an internship at SIHO in Bloomington this summer and wants to pursue a career in some type of consulting business, health insurance or medical sales.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder participated in senior day activities at IU’s game with Michigan and went through the emotions of what might have been his final game of his career had the Hoosiers lost at Purdue. But since IU was able to take care of the Boilermakers, Wilson has at least one game left to play.
“The main emotion I have is how thankful I am and all my teammates,” he said. “You build a lot of bonds and make a lot of good friends for life.”
Wilson, who originally committed to Butler as a senior at East, is happy he ended up at IU.
“I’m just glad all the hard work paid off,” Wilson said. “I need to thank the team and all the offensive coaches. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I have zero regrets.”
Name: Andrew Wilson
High school: Columbus East
College: Indiana University
Year: Fourth-year junior
Position: Running back
Major: Health care policy management
Minor: Business entrepreneurship