There has been plenty of big news in college athletics over the past couple of weeks or so, but probably none bigger than the announcement of Urban Meyer’s pending retirement as the Ohio State football coach because of health issues.
Meyer has been quoted as being unsure of his next steps and hopeful of finding, “something to fall in love with.”
David Wilson certainly can relate. The former Virginia Tech tailback found himself in this exact same situation four years ago when recurring neck injuries forced his retirement from the NFL’s New York Giants after two seasons. A former first-round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, he appeared destined for NFL greatness. Yet he saw his career end after 21 games – and at the age of 22.
After some initial struggles coping with his abrupt life change, Wilson finally has found a different passion – his music. Today, he pours much of his time, energy and focus on that.
“After football, I had to decide what was next,” Wilson said recently via a phone interview from his home in Atlanta. “One day, I just made a song at home on my laptop. That creative experience is uplifting and gave me a real positive vibe. Then I let some of my friends hear it, and they liked it. They thought it was cool. So that little bit of inspiration is what I needed to kind of end up in a studio session, and I kept going.”
Wilson’s passion for music started at a young age. He used to sing in the church choir, and he remembers vividly when his aunt placed her Walkman – remember those? – over his head to listen to Michael Jackson.
Of course, Jackson was a star well before Wilson’s birth, and at 6 or 7 years old, he knew nothing about “The King of Pop.” But the opening drum beat of “Billie Jean” resonated with Wilson, and Jackson’s passion in the song hooked him.
“I had never heard anything that electric,” Wilson said. “From that point on, I was like, ‘Who is this?’ That fast, I was a fan. I became more of a fan after I got to see him and watch him perform and see his dance moves and how much energy you could feel by looking at him express himself.
“I don’t know if anyone is performing or doing that stuff with that much passion. There are great artists out right now, but I don’t know if I could name any that exert themselves to that point like Michael Jackson used to do it.”
After his retirement from the NFL, Wilson originally started pursuit of a career in track and field, with a goal of making the U.S. Olympic team that competed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. As many Virginia Tech fans know, Wilson dabbled in track and field at Tech in off seasons, and his marks in both the long jump and triple jump still rank among the top 10 at Tech.
Truthfully, though, his heart wasn’t in it. At the time, he, like Meyer, wasn’t sure of his passion.
“My head wasn’t in the right place, with that clear conscious, that clear thought, and in those days, it was easy to get distracted or feel like I wasn’t good enough,” Wilson said. “All these things and all these thoughts weighed in on me. Then also, the reason I was trying for the Olympics was because I couldn’t play football any more. If I could put the pads on, I wouldn’t have been training [for the Olympics]. Going to train and thinking about that as well was also draining, and it was more so negative energy than positive energy that catapulted me to doing it [training in track].
“I had to regroup and regain my thoughts and not be influenced and be able to come to grips with myself and what I really wanted for my next steps in life.”
Wilson lived in San Diego while training as a track athlete, and his brother was out there, too, pursuing a career in music himself. While there, Wilson went with his brother to a recording studio, and the two of them created a song together.
That fueled Wilson’s fire. He loved music, and he loved being creative, building something on his own from scratch. He saw an opportunity for himself, which prompted him to give up on track and field.
With his wife’s encouragement, he went all in, building a studio in their Atlanta home. He also sought guidance from Grammy-nominated artists and even Grammy winners.
Today, he mostly creates beats, jingles and harmonic effects, though he mixes in some rap and other songs.
“I’m really finding my niche as far as my style and my sound,” Wilson said. “There is a lot that goes into all that, and I’m just coming up with a lane that I want to pursue. If you listen to video games or apps on your phone or commercials, TV breaks and shows, ESPN highlights … they’ve all got music behind it. It’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. Even at Lane Stadium, they’ll have the marching band and then go to the speakers. My dream is to have my music in those places, so that I can see people react and drive off my creativity and something that I did that made me happy.”
Wilson’s music features an eclectic mix of both up-tempo beats and smooth, slower ones. Some of the samples on his website would fit in perfectly in intense action movies, for example, as a build-up to a climactic moment – the beats cause one to tense up almost naturally. Others simply force a person to move, whether it be bobbing of the head or tapping of the feet, as one becomes in flow with the beat. Others have a slower vibe – but all are designed to make a person “feel.”
That fits within Wilson’s personality. He loves to engage and interact in all aspects of life, but especially with his fans.
Wilson, of course, understands the competitiveness of the industry, but he also remains confident in his ability to become a success in the business. He draws comparisons of his pursuit toward a career in music to that of his career in football. Through hard work, focus and commitment, he gradually became the best player at his high school, then his city and then his state. Football took the Danville, Virginia native to a new stage when he arrived at Virginia Tech, and he ultimately wound up on the biggest stage of all – the NFL. Now, he wants to be on the biggest stage in the music industry.
“I really try not to put limits on me,” he said. “But getting recognized for my art, I definitely feel like that’s one of the biggest goals and achievements. I feel like some of the best musicians have Grammys, and I’m just trying to be the best. That would be a dream come true, to get around the people and get acquainted with the techniques and learn the whole process to become a better me.
“I’m definitely inspired to do something like that, and be recognized and win a Grammy and have people identify my sound, or simple stuff like me sitting at a Virginia Tech game and my song come on … These are things that I think are really cool.”
After struggling to cope with a life that excluded football, Wilson feels blessed and upbeat. He looked great when he returned to Blacksburg the weekend of the Miami game for a marketing event, though he was bummed he was unable to stay for the game because of a scheduling conflict.
These days, he now focuses on a new set of priorities – his wife and their two young sons, his extended family, his faith, and of course, his music.
The desire to play football figures to remain within him. But at least for Wilson, it’s more of a dull ache instead of a throbbing pain.
“I’m at peace with where I’m at,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m at a point where I don’t miss football, but as far as me trying to play again or risk anything or lose anything to go out there … nah, I’m definitely at peace with the whole situation.
“I consider everything perfect now. If things had happened another way, it would be way different – and I wouldn’t want it to be way different.”
To listen to some of David Wilson’s music, check out his website: www.wilsonstillrunning.com.
–Jimmy Robertson, VT Athletics