[This is a guest post from Katy High School senior and 2016 UH recruit Collin Wilder. Wilder worked alongside the team at 6Blvd on this story.]
I grew up in a Christian home, raised by my two parents who instilled wisdom in me and continue to do so to this day. I am Houston born, and have lived in Katy all my life, which is a smaller town in the Houston area. As far back as I can remember, a ball has always been within reach. When I was one year old, my brother and I would play “kicker and holder.” I would hold the ball and he would kick it. A ball never left us, and in a way, a ball always brought us together.
By the time I was five, I was playing organized basketball, baseball, and football. The type of ball may have changed from season to season, but my love for competitive sports was continuously growing, and I continued playing those sports until I was out of junior high. I played AAU basketball where we won championships and tournaments. I played tournament baseball all over the country where my coach pitch team was the #1 ranked team in the country (yes, they ranked coach pitch teams). For youth football, we went to championships all four years, winning three out of four times; only losing three games in all four years. Each of those losses was bitter.
I have been around competition all of my life and playing in competitive sports has contributed to shaping who I am today. I have been blessed with parents who were very involved in my sports life. They paid for all my travel, wherever I needed to go, and my dad coached my youth football team. He drove character, hard work, and technique into each kid on our team, and we still use those values to this day, both on and off the field. You see, I learned that it is the character and values that build a team culture, a shared vision, and a sense of family, and without that, you cannot win a game even if you have great technique. For me, the thing that is the most special about my youth football team is the guys I played with back then. I played with them up until my senior year of high school. Travis Whillock, Paddy Fisher, Garrett Doiron, Grant Jackman, Cole Shannon. Those are guys I have grown up with and now we are all going to the next level in our sport and in life. It is a special thing when you achieve dreams with the brothers you have grown up with. Those guys will be my brothers for life.
I can look back and see how my motivation for playing football transformed into passion. I remember that football became my favorite sport in 3rd grade when I figured out that I loved the feeling I got from hitting people. I even asked my mother, “What can you do if someone cheap shots you in baseball or basketball, or talks trash?” I noticed there is no way that you can physically and legally respond to that. By hitting a home run? Shooting a three pointer in their face? I thought that was pretty lame. On the other hand, in football, you can respond to a cheap shot by being as physical as you want the very next play to that person who cheap shotted you (between the whistles of course). I remember thinking to myself, “Now that’s how you take out some energy toward somebody you don’t like. You can make them cry but never get in trouble for it.” Football had a special place in this nine year old boy’s heart. I had a bigger passion for it than basketball or baseball.
Playing football in college and in the NFL was always a dream, but in 7th grade, I realized that I had to go and work for it if I really wanted it. I told my dad I wanted a workout regimen and wanted to start to lift weights as soon as possible. And that’s just what we did. My dad set up a plan, and he and I did the workouts together every day in our shed outside the house. When my 13th birthday came around, I told my parents that all I wanted was a nutritionist. I wanted to get on a plan and be at my highest level of health and performance, not just that year, but for years to come. I had a vision and my family helped me develop my action plan and put it into motion so that I could achieve my goals.
As my 8th grade year was coming to an end, I was determined to play on varsity football my freshman year of high school. So during a track meet that my future high school coach was at, I went up to him and asked him what I had to do to play on the varsity team my freshman year. Whatever it took, I was willing to do it. My coach gave me opportunities to compete in the summer with summer workouts and seven on seven, and I was able to earn a spot on the varsity team. It was not easy at all though. I took a lot of butt chewings and a lot of coaching up, but it was worth every bit of it. My freshman year we were able to win a state & national championship. That experience built me as a leader and helped pave the way for me to be a two year captain for our team and help us get to three more state championships. I was blessed by God to play in 64 high school football games and maximize my high school experience. Those years playing high school football are memories I will never forget and my relationships with my teammates will always be so close to me.
The recruiting process was a roller coaster for me. My freshman year, I was fortunate to have received my first offer, from Texas Tech. I then committed to Texas Tech before my sophomore year because I was told that the offer from Texas Tech could be the best offer I would get, so I listened to the advice and took the offer while I had it. I began to believe what I was told, when I didn’t get another offer for two more years. During that time, Texas Tech began to contact me less, and to this day I have not heard from their newer defensive coordinator. To me, that was a sign that I was not wanted there anymore. When I was later told that they wanted to change my position, I knew I had to get out and decommit. Fortunately, I received my second offer shortly thereafter, from Duke University. I was then able to decommit from Texas Tech. God closes some doors and opens others in those ways sometimes. So as time went on, I got an email invite to attend the University of Houston’s Junior Day. To be honest, I thought very little of it. They had just gotten a new head coach, once again, and in my thoughts at that time, they were an average school. But I went anyway because it was close to my house. I told my dad to stay home saying, “I’m not going to U of H anyway” (ironic).
At the U of H Junior Day, I was enjoying it, just going through the routine with the rest of the recruits until a coach pulled me aside and said, “Come with me, Coach Herman wants to talk to you in his office.” So I walked up to the coach’s office with him and there I met Coach Herman. He was full of energy. But what stuck out to me the most was how genuine he was. He said everything exactly how it was. I could tell he wasn’t putting on an act for me. He then offered me a scholarship there and I was really appreciative of it. As I got home, I began to think about my future. Where I wanted to be in 10 years, where I wanted to work, what I wanted to do when football was done. And it all led back to being in Houston. As my recruiting picked up and I started to receive more offers, I ended up visiting U of H quite frequently; developing relationships with coaches and possible future teammates. I began to see the vision that they had with Coach Herman and this new staff, a vision of keeping the best players in Houston, changing the culture of the university, and bringing the pride of the city of Houston to the university itself. I began to be a believer.
As Ed Oliver committed to U of H, and several others, this whole “Keep the best Houston players in Houston” goal was fully alive, and I began to really look into it. I asked a lot of questions about the school itself, the business school that I wanted to be in, all of that, and I came to find out that it is one of the best universities in the country. Not only that, but one of the best business CITIES in the country. Once my academics were cleared, I looked into their plan for me as a football player. With seven defensive backs leaving this year, there is a chance that I can play early. That was huge for me, because I wanted to go somewhere where the school had a plan set for me that included when I was going to get to play. At U of H, they said it could it could possibly be right away. The opportunities and success for myself are set up to be amazing. As I prayed and prayed and prayed, UH was revealed as the place for me in my heart, and in June I committed to be part of the H-Town pride and University. Since then, I could not be more happy and excited to be a part of a culture of loving your brother and playing for the guy next to you, a reflection of the values and virtues I had learned under my own father’s coaching in my childhood.
Looking back at my recruiting process, to now being around the University of Houston every day, I don’t understand how a player, especially from Houston, can choose not come to the University of Houston. Yes, LSU has tradition and Oregon has facilities, but putting on for your city, being part of the “H-Tine” culture, and playing for the brother beside you out of genuine love, is something money can’t buy. You can’t buy love, you can’t buy a city to be behind you, and you surely can’t buy a championship mindset. The culture of U of H and what the football coaching staff is continuing to build, is something that will create a tradition to come. People and high school recruits better jump on it before it’s too late.
I thank God every day for the opportunity to be a part of the University of Houston in the future, and to get to be part of the city of Houston and make people proud of H-Town. On Wednesday, I will officially be a Coog, and I cannot thank all of you that have gotten me to this point enough: God first and foremost, my mom and dad, Coach Herman and Coach Naivar for offering me this chance to play for them, the entire Katy High School coaching staff, my trainer Al, and my brothers in Katy, they know who they are. It’s been a fun ride, and the great thing is it’s just the beginning. See you on 6Blvd Fall 2016!