It's `Big Country' for FSU Lineman Wilson Closes in on Sack Record

By Thomas, Bob | The Florida Times Union, August 25, 1996 | Go to article overview

It's `Big Country' for FSU Lineman Wilson Closes in on Sack Record


Thomas, Bob, The Florida Times Union


TALLAHASSEE -- The legend of Reinard "Big Country" Wilson began

on the family farm outside Lake City, but seems to grow daily.

It's a story about a young man who hunted racoons by night with

his father after a full day's work in the tobacco field as a

boy; about a young man who chases quarterbacks on Saturday and

dreams of playing on Sunday.

Preparing for his final season at Florida State, Wilson has

established himself as the most fierce pass-rushing defensive

end in school history. He is steadily closing in on Ron Simmons'

career-record 25 sacks.

His 6-foot-2, 250-pound frame was fashioned by hard work as a

youngster on the farm and fortified through dedication in the

weight room. Wilson can bench-press 520 pounds, leap 38

1/2-inches into the air from a standstill and cover 40 yards in

4.6 seconds, numbers that have climbed incrementally over each

of the past three seasons.

"Pound-for-pound, he's the strongest guy we've got," said FSU

strength coach Dave Van Halanger. "He has unbelievable natural

strength. When he grabs hold of somebody, they're in trouble.

I've seen him buckle 300-pound linemen."

Defensive ends coach Jim Gladden calls him, "one of those

instinctive, natural football players."

But almost from Day One at FSU, his teammates have called him

"Big Country".

Wilson earned his "Big Country" moniker on a hot August night

in 1993, just a few days into two-a-day drills during his

freshman year. He was among a group of players hanging around

the Burt Reynolds Hall parking lot when a opossum came wandering

through.

Gladden, who instantly took a liking to Wilson during his

recruitment, loves telling the story:

"Reinard ran that opossum up under a stairwell where it

couldn't escape and caught it with his bare hands; and he took

that opossum and was chasing those city kids around. That

opossum was hissin' . . . he was scaring those guys to death."

After that it didn't seem quite so unusual to his teammates

that Wilson would talk on the practice field about the tobacco,

corn or watermelon crops back home, or tending to hogs and cows.

"It's 110-percent real," said teammate Andre Wadsworth,

validating Wilson's nickname. "You can't get no more country

than him."

Farming had been a way of life for the son of James and Patricia

Wilson, since he was six years old. So while his new teammates

were falling out in the heat of two-a-day drills, Wilson pushed

forward, with designs of one day playing in the NFL.

"My father always said, `Play good enough to go to college

because, you know, you don't want to have to work as hard like

I've had to,' " Wilson said. "[Pro football] is a real big deal

because you can have a good living . . . way better than

tobacco, because you can't get no retirement in a tobacco

field."

Wilson's father, a heavy equipment operator by day and farmer

on the side, has had a significant influence in his life.

James Wilson earned the nickname "Charley Horse" as a star

player at Richardson High in Lake City. …

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