By Calli Newberry
It’s been a big week for Luke Wilson.
On Sunday, the Croswell-native graduated from Concordia University in Ann Arbor where he studied nursing and played as a tight end on the Cardinals’ football team that earned back-to-back conference titles this year.
Then on Monday, he found out he was named to The Associated Press NAIA All-American Second Team after playing his best season of football.
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“I had just graduated the day before and I was just sitting in my apartment kind of getting my things together and I got a notification from Twitter that CUAA Football tagged me in a post,” Wilson said. “I opened up and it said, ‘Luke Wilson, AP Second Team All-American’ and I was like, ‘No way.’ So I called my mom and I told her right away.”
And on top of that, he got his first job as a nurse yesterday.
“I actually just accepted a job at St. Joe’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. I’m going to be starting in January working in the emergency department,” he said. “This past week of my life has been a whole bunch of different things and I love it. It’s like a massive weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.”
Wilson totalled 44 receptions for 470 yards and four touchdowns this season as he led his team to its third appearance in the NAIA Quarterfinals with a 9-2 record. He also earned his second All-Conference award this season.
After four seasons with the Cardinals, Wilson leaves the program as one of the best tight ends in its history, leading with 93 receptions for 1,087 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Garrett Grundman, who coached Wilson in high school at Croswell-Lexington, said he was in the barbershop when he found out the news.
“That’s pretty exciting, it’s great. I always knew from coaching him as a high school athlete that he was a special athlete. He’s got the drive and the hard work to do it,” Grundman said. “[He has] those intangibles: the speed, the strength, he’s got really long arms for how tall he is, he’s got these big mitts for hands, and he’s got instincts…I knew he was going to do something special.”
Wilson said he wasn’t so sure at times, however, what his career as a collegiate football player would look like, or if he’d even finish.
“As a freshman, I started out at Grand Valley and I was probably the worst player on the team. Maybe not from a potential standpoint, but from what I knew just because I came from such a small area…I just didn’t understand the game and the speed of everything as much as other people did,” he said. “There were definitely times when I thought, ‘I’m not going to play college football anymore. I’m not good enough.’”
But after transferring to Concordia in 2018, he was surrounded by teammates and coaches who pushed him to be better.
“Honestly, a big part of it was making really good friends on the team right away. I was with guys who were committed and pushed themselves. I made friends with some of the older guys right away that were already playing,” he said. “I’d work out and train with them and they’d always be there to motivate me.”
“I literally could not have asked for better coaches. They were people that had a strong faith background, strong family backgrounds, they cared about us,” he said. “Our motto was developing men as athletes, students, Christians, and men. I would 100% say that I would not even be close to the person that I am right now, have the work ethic, have the goals, have the constant drive to want to do more if I hadn’t had the coaches and teammates that I did.”
Grundman said Wilson’s ability to work hard and have fun in the process is what set him apart and allowed him to see success on and off the field.
“Being mentally strong is a big thing about it. He’s just one of those guys where he puts his nose to the grindstone and is a great leader…If you’re serious about playing college athletics, those are the things that you have to do and the things that you have to go into and have a good mindset,” he said. “Having fun and working hard have to go hand in hand to be successful so I’m real proud of him.”
Now Wilson will be entering “the real world” as he begins his career as a nurse. He said after his freshman year he wasn’t sure what he was going to do, as he originally planned on physical therapy. But after thought and prayer, he said he decided to pursue nursing in his sophomore year.
“I thought about it a lot, I thought about how when my grandpa was sick a lot of people didn’t take really good care of him and that made me feel sad and upset. I thought, ‘You know, I can do a better job than that.’ So I wanted to be a nurse,” he said. “At first I kinda liked it, the classes were sort of hard, but I ended up liking all my clinical and being in the setting.”
“I liked taking care of people and talking to them and knowing I’m making a difference in their day,” he said. “This is what I am meant to do.”