It might be easier said than done, but Central Michigan University cornerback Jason Wilson is quite certain when he says his focus will be on the football game.
Well, every player says that, you think. But not every player goes to the balmy Bahamas in December, when he’s more accustomed to 30-degree weather, to play in a bowl game.
That’s where the Farmington Hills resident and former Farmington High School standout will be this Christmas season.
Wilson and his CMU teammates will play Western Kentucky in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl at Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau. Kickoff is at noon Wednesday, Dec. 24. The game will be televised by ESPN.
“It’s something I never thought I’d be doing, going to the Bahamas for football,” Wilson said. “I’m very appreciative of CMU and Popeyes for having that bowl. It’ll be a great experience.
“But, first and foremost, we’re going down there to win the game. It’ll be nice to see the scenery, but we want to win the game first and foremost.”
A senior captain and three-year starter for the Chippewas, Wilson (6-1, 185) could be playing in his last game, and he wants to make it a good one.
“I haven’t thought about it being my last game; I’m sure it will hit me after the game,” he said. “Right now, I’m just wrapped up in Western Kentucky and having fun with my teammates while we’re there.
“I want to soak in the experience and enjoy it and put in the work to try to come out with a win.”
Both teams are 7-5. Wilson was a member of the CMU team that defeated the Hilltoppers in the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field, 24-21.
“I know their quarterback just won the MVP (award) of their conference,” Wilson said. “They like to sling the ball around, and they have a great offense. It will be a great challenge for us, and I feel like we’re up for it.
“I’m sure they want another piece of us after two years ago. It’ll be a fun match-up. Their offense has changed a little bit; they do some new things. They’re a good offensive team. It’ll be a good football game.”
A top defender
Wilson is confident the Chippewas, who had the No. 1-ranked defense in the Mid-American Conference this year, can handle anything WKU throws at it.
A two-time all-Observer player at Farmington, Wilson is a co-winner of CMU’s Defensive Player of the Year award with former Brother Rice linebacker Justin Cherocci.
“It’s a great honor,” Wilson said. “I was a big part of that (No. 1 defense), but we had a lot of guys who stepped up and made plays. It was a collective effort.
“It was a great honor, but I think a lot of guys could have gotten it, too. I think the whole defense was the MVP this year.”
Wilson established himself early in his college career as a shutdown corner in pass coverage. He has seven interceptions and 19 pass breakups in his career.
He has proved to be a reliable tackler, too. That’s something players at his position are not often noted for doing. He has 49 tackles this year and a career total of 150.
“It’s just part of my job description,” Wilson said. “I get to do a lot of fun things out there. I’m coming on blitzes some times and playing a little safety position. I get to fly around and make plays.
“Switching over to defense, I had to work on that a little. I was not used to being out there tackling people, so I had to get back in the swing of that a little bit.”
Played offense first
Wilson began his college career in 2011 as a wide receiver and played offense his freshman year, appearing in all 12 games and making nine catches for 106 yards.
Coach Dan Enos asked Wilson if he wanted to switch to defense before the 2012 season because the Chippewas needed help at defensive back.
“I had practiced on both sides of the ball,” Wilson said. “My freshman year we kinda experimented, but I never actually got in a game on defense.
“I thought the switch was good for me. It gave me the best opportunity to help the team win and further my career. I thought it was a great decision.
“We were in need of DBs my freshman and sophomore years. We had a lot of good receivers. I feel like it worked out very, very well for my career.”
Wilson became one of the best cover guys in the MAC, and he relishes the challenge of playing the corner position.
“I look forward to it every game,” he said. “You gotta have a short memory, but it’s fun to line up against somebody. It gets the competitive juices going. It’s fun competing out there at corner.
“I feel pretty good about (the career he has had). Corner is a hard job. I believe over my three years I’ve done well at helping out the defense, so I feel really good about it.”
Back from injury
Wilson had played in 42 consecutive games for CMU until the middle of his senior season. A hamstring injury – the worst thing that could happen to a cornerback – caused him to miss three game.
“It was a nagging injury,” he said. “When I got it, I missed one game. I thought I could come back (right away). I tried to go and was just not ready.
“In high school, I didn’t sit out any games; in college, I didn’t sit out many. Being my senior year, sitting out three games, that’s something nobody wants to do.
“Guys stepped in and we won two out of three. But that definitely was tough, being on the sideline watching.”
The Chippewas won three straight games when Wilson returned to become bowl eligible and get to seven wins. Wilson is fully recovered and looking forward to his next opportunity to play cornerback.
“I haven’t given (pro ball) too much thought either,” he said. “I’ll see what happens after the bowl. Otherwise, I’m just focusing on the bowl game and enjoying the last week with my teammates.
“Coming here as a freshman, I just wanted to play football, and that’s what I’ve been able to do. It’s been a great four years. I left everything on the field. It’s been a great time, being up here in Mount Pleasant and playing for the Chips.”