Some might say how Darrell Wilson is following the footsteps of his famous father, Wilbur “Pony” Wilson.
And they would be right.
After all, Darrell Wilson was a terrific athlete like his dad and then became an outstanding coach like his father. And he is entering Halls of Fame like his dad.
But those who know Darrell and knew his dad, truly understand how the son is more than a great athlete and coach like the man everyone referred to endearingly as just Pony.
“He laid the groundwork for me,” Wilson said about his dad, who passed away in 1999 and was the recent subject of an exhibit over the winter at the Paul Robeson Library in Camden. “He was very well liked and respected and loved by many.”
The same can be said about Darrell. He could be speaking about himself.
The younger Wilson, a former star defensive back at Pennsauken High School and coach at Woodrow Wilson, will be inducted into South Jersey Football Coaches Association (SJFCA) Hall of Fame.
Pony Wilson was a track star at Haddonfield High before becoming the long-time basketball coach and athletic director at Rutgers-Camden University. He was an original inductee to the Rutgers-Camden Athletic Hall of Fame as well as the Camden County Sports Hall of Fame. Pony is also a Hall of Fame member of the South Jersey Track Club, Virginia State University and Haddonfield High.
Darrell Wilson will be inducted in the Legends (Post-playoffs) category during an induction banquet on Wednesday, June 28, at 6 p.m., at Masso’s Caterers in Glassboro.
Other members of the 2017 class to be inducted are Logan Ryan (Professional Player), Charles Doud (Distinguished Service) Mike Bomgardner (Legends Pre-playoffs), Thomas Magulick (Assistant Coach) and George Manlove (Assistant Coach).
“I'm overwhelmed,” Wilson said, “it's a tremendous honor.”
Wilson, 58, most recently coached at Rutgers, serving as the defensive backs coach for the Scarlet Knights from 2013 to 2015.
“I'm knocking at the door hoping somebody will let me in,” Wilson said about returning to college coaching.
Wilson, an All-America defensive back for Connecticut from 1976-1980, coached 16 seasons in the Big Ten Conference (11 at Iowa, two at Wisconsin and three at Rutgers) after turning Woodrow Wilson into a South Jersey power from 1988-1995.
“The year I left Wilson was probably the hardest thing for me to do,” he said. “I told them ‘I wasn't leaving you, I now will have scholarships to give to you guys.’ ”
Wilson played one season with the New England Patriots (1981) and five seasons (1982-86) with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League before returning to South Jersey.
“By the grace of God I ran into Greg Singleton,” Wilson said about the Woodrow Wilson head coach. “Just like that he said I was on his staff.
‘I give a lot of credit to Greg Singleton. He was the reason I ended up coaching at Woodrow Wilson.”
Singleton retired the next season and Wilson was elevated to the head coach of the Tigers. He quickly brought the spread offense to Woodrow Wilson. The offense was ahead of its time.
“When I played in Toronto my first year the offense coordinator my first year was Mouse Davis,” Wilson said about an early innovator of the run-and shoot offense at Portland State University. “I got to practice against that and I got to learn it.
“When I became a coach, that's what I implemented as the offense and I was blessed with some great quarterbacks.”
Wilson’s high-scoring offense launched the Tigers to a 65-18 record in eight seasons. Under his leadership, the Tigers won five conference championships and made four appearances in the South Jersey Group 3 finals.
“The offense we ran is now the norm,” Wilson said. “The kids enjoyed it and that's what it's about and they talk about to this day - they can still call the plays out. Now that's what makes the whole journey unbelievable.
“I give all the credit to the kids. Those kids really persevered, they were determined and they developed a lot of pride.
“A lot of those kids were written off. They were driven and determined and the pride they brought to Woodrow Wilson was great.
“I feel very fortunate we had tremendous kids to work with and my staff was just unbelievable."
Wilson cited assistant coaches Rob Hinson, Mike McBride, Mark Pease and David Reilly in particular.
“The list goes on, they were just unbelievable role models,” Wilson said. “I could never thank those guys enough.”
Wilson has been living in Hillsborough in Somerset County for the last four years. His wife, Monica (Perry), was a two-time state champion at Palmyra High School, specializing in the 1500 meters.
“I always tease her she was slow twitch,” Wilson said with a laugh. “I joke that our daughters got their slow twitch from mom and fast twitch from their dad.”
Their oldest daughters Brianna and Kayla, both graduated from Iowa while Kiana attends Rutgers and Jehlani will be a sophomore at Hillsborough High School.
Wilson’s sister Diane’s son, Marcus, was a star athlete at Camden Catholic, who was recruited by his uncle for football at Iowa and now is coaching high school football in Maryland.
Darrell Wilson, who was named Camden's "Citizen of the Year" by the Rotary Club in 1992, didn’t just win football games. Like his father, he won and was a great guy doing it.
“I was always said it's not about me I was placed there for a reason,” Wilson said, “and those kids were placed in my life for a reason.”
Tickets for the banquet are $30 and may be obtained by calling (609) 502-0424.