Growing up in Monroe, Louisiana, idolizing LSU football, Tay'Shawn Wilson wondrously watched former Tiger great and current Kansas City Chief Tyrann Mathieu, marveling at the cornerback's dominant, soulful performances night in and night out.
"I would watch him and be like, man, I've gotta make this happen, because that's who I want to be," Wilson said.
To do that, however, to make his own gridiron glory a reality, Wilson understood he had to leave Monroe, one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, according to crimegrade.org. So, with his family's encouragement, Wilson left last summer to Houston and Mayde Creek High School.
"It's been great for me to be here," said Wilson, whose uncle, Dechristeon, is a defensive backs coach for the Rams. "I had to get away from all the negatives in Louisiana. All the bad things. When we moved out here, I wanted to get a better opportunity. It's rare to get an opportunity in Louisiana. I'm here to better myself and get looked at more."
Spent this morning getting to know @MCRamFootball CB @TayShawnWilson6, who is emerging as a top recruit in the Class of 2023. Story coming later this week on @vypehouston. #txhsfb @MCHSAthleticDep @MCHS_Rams @KatyISDAthletic @dctf @CoachJensen3 pic.twitter.com/TKfSlMBb8N— Dennis Silva II (@densilva02) June 24, 2021
Everything is coming as expected for Wilson, who is emerging as one of the top recruits in the Class of 2023. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound cornerback with a 4.45 laser-timed 40-yard dash has received DI offer after DI offer as he has opened many eyes on the camp scene this summer.
There was the first offer, from Louisiana Tech, on May 20. On June 5 came an offer from Baylor. Three days later, the University of Texas joined the list. And on June 18, the University of Houston became Wilson's third Power 5 offer in 14 days.
Wilson credits his new teammates—his new family—for his blossoming success.
"I wouldn't be here without them," Wilson said. "They didn't have to welcome me here when I came from Louisiana. But they push me in practice all the time. I'm around them all the time. Everything's been going up."
Wilson started nine games for Mayde Creek last season, totaling 20 tackles with two pass deflections and one fumble recovery. He showed a raw, obvious talent, and made a quick impression on new Rams head coach J Jensen when he was hired in March.
TayShawn Wilson Sophomore Szn
TayShawn Wilson Sophomore Szn www.hudl.com
TayShawn Wilson Sophomore Szn
"Really, really explosive athlete," Jensen said. "I thought he was a junior going into his senior year, but loved it when I heard he was a sophomore to be a junior. He's strong in the weight room. He can fly on the track. When he took the baton on the relay anchor leg, I knew he'd go get it and give it his all. That's the kind of guy you want, someone you have to pull back and not have to prod and push."
Jensen said Wilson reminds him of former Alief Taylor star safety Greg Allen, who played at Kansas. Jensen was an offensive line coach for the Lions at the time. Allen was a physical, aggressive playmaker, and, like Wilson, also ran the anchor leg of relays for the Taylor track team.
Jensen plans to use Wilson, who played quarterback growing up in Monroe, all over the field. Wilson will blitz off the edge in nickel and dime packages. He'll play outside and cover the other team's best receiver. He'll play on the inside to cover the slot. He'll return kicks. He'll see plenty of time on offense, carrying the ball or running routes.
"He just adds to our playbook and game plan every week, and the other team is going to have to defend him as well and figure out a way to get the ball to their best receiver with Tay'Shawn in his pocket," Jensen said.
As skilled as Wilson is, however, Jensen has been most impressed with his maturity and confidence. "Coming out of his shell," as Jensen likes to say.
Wilson is smiling more. He's laughing and joking with coaches and teammates more. He's taking younger defensive backs under his wing, even though he's yet to see his first day as an upperclassman.
Most importantly, he's a team-first guy.
"This isn't a one-person game," Wilson said.
And it's not just hot air.
"Tay'Shawn will be in the battle with you," Jensen said. "He's locked in, and 100 percent focused on winning and doing the right things. He's all about the team. He gets excited that he's able to bring college coaches around to watch other kids, too, when they watch him. Our kids are getting looks because coaches come to watch Tay'Shawn."
Wilson is in Florida this weekend for another showcase. It's another opportunity to show he's the best, the fastest, the first one in line.
"I'm trying to show I can be that person that can help a program and everything around the program," he said. "I just love to compete."
Ideally, Wilson wants to go to a college that is what Mayde Creek is. A family. A sense of home. A place to be the best version of himself.
"I want a family environment, great academics, great sports," he said. "I really want that closeness of a family that the team brings and that everyone around the school brings. Diversity. I like a school that's a mixture of a lot of things and everyone just comes together as a team."