- Wilson is not close to committing to a school, but he does like Texas and visited a Longhorns practice this week.
- Wilson's teammate, 6-foot-8 offensive tackle Walker Little, checks in at No. 15 on our initial Fabulous 55.
- Wilson's high school, Bellaire Episcopal, is an academically-rich private school that's part of the Southwest Preparatory Conference.
HOUSTON — When word reached Marvin Wilson last July that he had been named the nation’s top football recruit for 2017, the massive defensive tackle Bellaire Episcopal had stepped out with friends for a burger.
To celebrate, Wilson spontaneously climbed atop a table at a fast foot restaurant and raised his arms.
An employee ordered him to step down.
Then something unexpected happened.
“It didn’t break,” Wilson said.
Wilson, all 6 feet, 4 inches and 330 pounds of him, had finally met his match in that sturdy Jack in the Box booth.
Not surprisingly, Wilson — the nation’s top player — is also the state’s top player, ranked No. 1 on the American-Statesman’s initial Fabulous 55 list of the state’s top prospects. But Wilson had stiff competition for that No. 1 spot. It was tempting to go with Baron Browning, Kennedale’s versatile outside linebacker who starts off ranked No. 2. Or punishing run blocker Jack Anderson, the big guard from Frisco, or J.K. Dobbins, La Grange’s jittery running back who has already pledged to Ohio State.
Asked who he believes is the state’s second-best player after himself, Wilson picked out South Grand Prairie safety Jeffrey Okudah, who checks in at No. 5 on our list. And there would’ve been no going wrong with No. 6 Tyrese Robinson, the McKinney Boyd guard who’s committed to Oklahoma, or future Texas teammates Lagaryonn Carson (No. 9, Texarkana Liberty-Eylau defensive end) or Sam Ehlinger (No. 10, Austin Westlake quarterback).
Even Wilson’s Episcopal teammate, towering 6-8 offensive tackle Walker Little, who’s ranked No. 15, has a case for the top spot after collecting MVP honors at recent combines in Dallas and Houston.
Yet in the end, Wilson gets the same No. 1 nod that in recent years has gone to Ole Miss tackle Gregory Little (2016, Allen), Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson (2015, Mesquite Poteet) and Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett (2014, Arlington Martin). In all, this year’s initial Fab 55 is made up of 36 offensive players, 18 defensive players and one wide receiver/defensive back athlete who hail from 44 high schools. Wide receiver is the most popular position, with 14 prospects on the list. And 27 of the original 55 have already committed.
In a recent sitdown with the American-Statesman, Wilson said he’s nowhere near close to wrapping up his recruitment and probably won’t pick a school until signing day next February. He’s considering Texas and visited the Longhorns this past week to take in a spring practice. Florida State, LSU, Ole Miss and Alabama are also in the mix. Michigan is making a push, too, and this winter Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh stopped by Episcopal High to play floor hockey in a class taught by Knights football coach Steve Leisz.
“I don’t want to influence him in any kind of way, because he’s going to have to be the one that’s there for the next three-and-a-half to four years,” said Wilson’s mother, Syble Ned.
Wilson hasn’t always had it this easy. He hasn’t seen his father since he was in the second grade, and his brother, Jonathan Ned, 27, with whom Wilson is very close, has spina bifida and has been confined to a wheelchair since he was 10 or so.
“He’s never walked a day in his life,” Wilson said.
Educated in Houston’s public schools, Wilson had a rude awakening when he enrolled as a freshman at Bellaire Episcopal, whose students pay $27,000 annually in tuition and are expected to maintain good grades. Each class is capped at 17 students to promote interaction with instructors. Early on, Wilson said he struggled with Spanish and was not turning in assignments.
“I remember thinking, why am I here,” he said.
Leisz, the football coach, intervened.
“I could tell he was fighting it,” Leisz said. “I sat down with his mother and his mother said, you can’t be hard enough on him.”
Wilson’s rebounded just fine and now has a grade-point average approaching 3.0. Last fall, he guided Episcopal to a berth in the Southwest Preparatory Conference’s large school title game where the Knights fell to Kinkaid.
Now when he looks back at his decision to attend Episcopal, Wilson calls it “one of the best decisions of my life.”