The Dixie Heights Colonels graduated several key contributors from their offense after the 2007 season, forcing head coach Tom Spritzky to rebuild the unit. A big factor in executing the plan would be having Ryan Wilson emerge as a legitimate threat at quarterback. The junior did not disappoint.
Wilson (6-0, 185) completed 113 of his 194 passes for 1,492 yards and 10 touchdowns. The dual-threat quarterback also added another 522 yards and 10 scores running the football as the Colonels once again emerged as of Northern Kentucky's most high-powered offenses.
What makes Wilson's play even more remarkable is the fact that he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in the sixth grade. It is something that he deals with on a day-to-day basis, including testing his blood 6-8 times today, giving himself a shot of Lantus each morning and taking daily shots of insulin when he eats.
"When I was first diagnosed I was freaking out because I didn't know if I could ever play sports again," Wilson recalled. "But I was determined to do whatever it took to play sports."
He has learned to cope and still tries to live the life of a normal teenage athlete. To this point he has managed to do so successfully.
"I look at other sports stars with diabetes as role models and hope someday I could be a role model for other children dealing with what I go through," Wilson stated.
Despite his success, the 2008 campaign didn't get off to the best of starts for the first-year signal-caller. Dixie's first four games with their young team were against Beechwood, Simon Kenton, Covington Catholic, and Highlands.
After struggling in the team's first two contests, Wilson was benched heading into the team's showdown with their arch rival, Covington Catholic. It really hit home for the young quarterback.
"The biggest impression was being benched for the CovCath game for making previous poor decisions," Wilson said. "I received the opportunity to come in after the previous quarterback got knocked out for a play and making the most of the opportunity I was given."
The Colonels dropped to 0-4 after losing that game 49-47, but something clicked during that game that reversed Wilson and Dixie's fortunes for the remainder of the season.
Dixie posted their first win of the year with a stunning 46-28 upset of the surging Conner Cougars. Wilson went 17 of 31 passing for 269 yards and a touchdown, ran in two more scores, kicked a 25-yard field goal and also added 5 pats.
"This gave me and the team confidence and ultimately turned the season around," Wilson claimed.
They would finish the regular season by winning four of their last six games, creating a ton of optimism for 2009.
Wilson feels the lumps the young Colonels took last year will pay huge dividends in the season ahead.
"We return 20 starters, so we have the experience that we didn't have last year," Wilson stated. "We have leaders all over the field pushing one another to get better that we lacked with such a small senior class a year ago."
Being a leader on the team is something that Wilson will have to deliver on. He appears to be up for the challenge.
"Leadership to me is motivating my teammates to work together to achieve our goal of winning a state championship," Wilson said. One of the best ways to lead is by example. Wilson does a good job of that on and off the field. The way he handles pressure is one of the many ways he earns the respect of his teammates.
Wilson not only serves as the Colonels' quarterback, but also has emerged as place kicker and a punter. He was 3 of 4 on field goals and connected on 24 of 29 point-after attempts. Wilson also averaged 36.8 yards per kick as a punter, including a long of 60 yards. All of the roles come with a ton of pressure.
"As quarterback all eyes are on you. You just can't worry about it and just perform and have a short mind," Wilson explains. "As kicker it's the same way you have to black out the pressure and environment around you and show confidence and execute."
Showing confidence and executing will be paramount for Wilson as he takes the field as a senior. If he continues to improve, the sky is the limit for him and Dixie Heights in '09.
Wilson has received some letters from college coaches, but has yet to receive any offers. He recently attended the Blue/Grey Combine (invite-only) at Paul Brown Stadium.
"My goals are to play college football somewhere and major in communications or broadcast journalism," Wilson said.
Whether or not Wilson has the tool to excel at the next level remains to be seen, but he is poised for a breakout campaign as a senior.