Justin Wilson spent his summer like so many other undrafted free agents waiting for a call to try out for an NFL roster.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound receiver out of Delaware State was up every day at 6:15 a.m. for his workout, made sure he ate three healthy meals each day and kept his iPhone’s ringer set on loud.
By the time the Green Bay Packers called Wilson to work out for the team last weekend, Wilson had himself in the best shape of his 23-year-old life.
For that, he has his father, Ronald, to thank.
“(I was) running on the track with my father – he’s a track coach at my high school,” said Wilson, a graduate of Windsor High School in Connecticut. “I’d go on the track with him and his athletes at the high school and that was it really. No job, nothing. Just working out.”
Wilson participated in the Packers’ rookie orientation camp on tryout in May, but wasn't extended a contract. Afterwards, receivers coach Edgar Bennett told him to stay ready and be prepared for a phone call at any time.
The phone went cold for the next three months, but Wilson maintained the same enthusiasm towards football that made him a three-time All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference first-team selection at Delaware State.
During his time there, he finished second in school history with 189 receptions and fourth in both receiving yards (2,416) and touchdown receptions (23).
The school has a special place in the heart of Wilson and his family. His parents met at the school – his mother Jackie was a scholarship athlete in track – and he currently has two younger siblings jumping on the track and field team.
Originally a dire-hard basketball player, Wilson decided to concentrate solely on football during his senior year at Windsor and wound up earning his own full ride to Delaware State just like his parents.
“Everybody in my family had a full track scholarship to Delaware State,” Wilson said. “We all went there. My older sister she was Miss Delaware State. We have a legacy there. My brother and sister are at Delaware State now running track – long jumpers and triple jumpers.”
With the Packers hurting at receiver after Sederrik Cunningham broke his wrist on the first day of training camp, the Packers finally reached out to Wilson, who admitted to some nerves when he was handling passes from two-time Pro Bowler Vince Young during Monday’s tryout with the team.
The Packers liked what they saw, enough to sign him on Tuesday. During Friday's 17-0 loss to Arizona in the preseason-opener, Wilson saw action on four offensive snaps and one on special teams.
There’s a lot of other bodies on the receiving depth chart at the moment, but plenty of opportunity, too. Now that he’s in Green Bay, Wilson plans to make the most of it.
“It wasn’t too hard to stay motivated because I have a great support back home – they kept me motivated,” Wilson said. “I’m very confident in my skills and know I can play football. I just needed that shot, needed that chance. I stayed patient, just continued to grind and work out and it finally came through.”
Editor’s note: The Green Bay Press-Gazette’s “Getting to Know” series runs throughout training camp and looks at some of the rookies, undrafted players and new additions to the Packers’ roster this offseason.