On the night before Nick Wilson’s last first day of fall camp with the Arizona Wildcats, he couldn’t help but wonder where the time has gone.
“I can’t believe it’s been so long,” he said. “I felt like I just got here. I remember the day moving on campus, my mom and dad telling me to grow up and ‘you’re a man now.’”
Now a senior, Wilson has several personal goals he wants to accomplish in his last hurrah in red and blue. But there’s one that stands out above the rest — to stay healthy.
“That is the ultimate goal,” he said. “When I stay on the field, I play good.”
A short, but true statement.
In Wilson’s first three seasons at Arizona, he has averaged 5.8 yards per carry, and no fewer than 5.5 yards per carry in a single season.
He’s been a consistent producer — when he’s been on the field, which has increasingly been a problem the last two seasons.
As a freshman, Wilson helped lead the Wildcats to the Fiesta Bowl, churning out 1,375 yards on the ground with 16 touchdowns in 13 games, shattering the school’s all-time rushing record for a freshman.
But as a sophomore, Wilson was limited to 133 carries for 738 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games. As a junior, he carried the ball just 55 times for 320 yards and three touchdowns in five games.
Despite once being on pace to break UA’s all-time rushing record, Wilson’s now most known for being a mainstay on Arizona’s injury report.
He’s suffered from concussions, ankle injuries, foot injuries, shoulder injuries. You name it, he’s had it.
“It is unfortunate that my career here has been kind of been plagued by injuries,” Wilson said. “It’s something that happens. As a running back, it’s something that comes with the territory.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a running back that’s said they’ve ever played pretty healthy during the season.”
That said, Wilson wants to be healthy enough in his last go-around.
He has changed his diet, vows to make daily trips to the cold tub, and, heeding his mother’s advice, has taken up yoga — anything to help him stay on the field.
“At first I was like, oh, it’s just yoga, it’s just stretching, but it’s actually kind of a workout,” Wilson said, with a laugh.
“I’m into it a lot more now. It definitely helps you loosen up and stretch and I think that’s another issue with the injuries. When you’re so tense it’s easier for you to injure stuff. I think me stretching and doing a lot more yoga will help a lot.”
In the weight room, Wilson has been doing “everything [strength coach] Chris Allen” has been recommending.
Wilson has bulked up and beaten many of his personal records — some by more than 100 pounds — and says he can now bench press 335 pounds.
“I’ve definitely been lifting a lot heavier,” he said.
Wilson’s role may be lessened to try to keep him healthy, too.
The Wildcats have the dynamic J.J. Taylor and highly-touted freshman Nathan Tilford in their backfield along with Wilson, and the trio could split carries, rather than rely on Wilson to be the workhorse he was as a freshman.
“All power to it,” Wilson said. “...The more weapons we have on the field, the better chance we have.”
Yet, Wilson knows only so much can be done to prevent injuries — sometimes you just need some luck.
“I think a lot of the injuries I’ve had have just been really unlucky,” he said.
“It’s been like some random freak stuff happening, just dumb stuff that can’t be prevented, but I’ve changed up a lot of things, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire