Punishing Griz fullback delivers with selfless approach

2014-08-21T16:59:00Z 2014-08-22T12:21:05Z Punishing Griz fullback delivers with selfless approachBy BILL SPELTZ Missoulian The Billings Gazette
August 21, 2014 4:59 pm  • 

Jamal Wilson’s coach calls him “the irreplaceable guy.”

Yet the average Montana football fan doesn’t know much about the junior fullback. Mainly because he never carries the football.

Wilson’s job is to provide a lead block for the guy carrying the rock in the Griz pro set scheme. He packs such a wallop at 260 pounds that it makes more sense for him to blaze the trail than carry the mail.

“He makes a huge difference – when he’s not in there you can feel it,” said Wilson’s position coach, Justin Green, after practice Thursday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. “We can’t find anybody to replace him.

“He’s one of those unsung heroes. He’s in a role he’s happy with. His credit comes from the guys that run behind him and from the front when he picks up protection and from the coaching staff. We know how much value he has to our team.”

A transfer from Boise State where he played sparingly in 2012, Wilson made a big splash in his first season as a Grizzly. Opposing coaches took notice and voted No. 34 onto the all-Big Sky Conference third team.

Wilson expects to be even better with a year of experience in Montana’s offense under his belt.

“It helps a whole bunch because last year you come in and you maybe have a little half-step (hesitation) and it doesn’t help the offense flow as good as it does now,” the California native said. “Being able to go full speed without that half step, knowing exactly who you have, makes it that much easier.”

Green uses words like gritty and smart to describe Wilson, a political science major and member of the all-Big Sky academic team. Wilson is also an optimist, encouraged by the way Montana’s run game is coming together.

“It’s been kind of rough losing those three (linemen) from last year,” he said of Danny Kistler, William Poehls and Kjelby Oiland. “They were incredible dudes.

“Just working this new line in, those guys are getting better every single day. From the start of spring until now, it’s just incredible how much better those guys got. Today they were flying around and we were getting holes we probably didn’t even see last year. We’re looking good in the run game.”

While Wilson did not have a carry in 2013, he did have five catches for 23 yards. Don’t be surprised if he tops those numbers in 2014.

“He’s done a great job working on some of his weaknesses in the offseason, working on his flexibility and ability to catch the ball,” Green said. “He’s by far our leader. Guys trust him. They believe in him.

“I know our linebackers are tired of hitting him and ready to hit somebody else. I know he’s tired of hitting them. He’s just a guy who brings his lunch pail every day.”

Wilson is a humble man proud to make an impact without making headlines. And yet, the one big question surrounding his Griz career still begs to be answered.

So how about it, Jamal: We all want to know why you didn’t have any carries last season.

“You and me both,” said Wilson as he laughed. “There’s been lots of times when I thought, ‘Hey, I could have gotten the ball on that play!’ or something like that.

“No really I’m just looking forward to this year. I’ve been working hard, trying to get that first touchdown.”

Whether he strikes paydirt or not, you can bet he’ll score high with Montana’s coaching staff.

“When he’s done with his career here I’m going to use his name as, ‘You need to be like Jamal Wilson,’” Green said. “He’s by far our highest grader (among the running backs) when we grade games.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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