Payoff time for UF lineman

Florida offensive lineman James Wilson is starting for the Gators.

Doug Finger/Staff Photographer
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 12:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 12:12 p.m.

Saturday will be a special occasion for Florida left guard James Wilson.

When the Gators take on Texas A&M, the sixth-year senior will be starting in his first SEC game since Florida's 23-20 homecoming victory over Arkansas on Oct 17, 2009.

This time last year, there was no start in sight for the 6-foot-4, 323-pounder from St. Augustine.

Entering his fifth season at UF, Wilson had registered just five starts and wasn't getting another any time soon. He was overweight, on the scout team and coming off a left knee injury that caused him to miss the last 10 games of 2010.

“We had to be able to get him in a functional way to play football,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “He started last year on scout team. He wasn't working with the offense in game week.”

But the former five-star recruit at Nease High School wasn't content with ending his career as a scout team player. He continued to work hard and remained in good spirits.

“I just kept persevering in my mind the whole time,” Wilson said. “Just keep going no matter what.”

Wilson got back in shape and caught the eye of Muschamp, who named him the scout team player of the week following the Kentucky game.

“I think it was about the fourth or fifth game of the year,” Muschamp said. “You keep noticing this guy on scout team creating some run-game issues for our defense. I'm thinking we need to get this guy an opportunity, especially with the way we were struggling to run the football.”

Wilson received playing time as the season progressed, and by the time Florida played Ohio State in the Gator Bowl, he was starting for UF.

Days before the bowl game, the NCAA granted Wilson a sixth year of eligibility.

“He played very well for us late in the year, really well,” Muschamp said. “He's a guy that can get some girth and movement inside against bigger tackles in our league.”

Now, Wilson is a starter in the league once again.

“180-degree difference,” Wilson said of his turnaround from 2011. “My body feels great and I'm just ready to get after it and get going.”

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