Excellence on the field and in the classroom has earned PHS senior Matt Wilson one of the most lucrative university scholarships ever received by a PHS student.
The offer came from Northern Arizona University and Wilson made it official on Feb. 4 in the PHS weight room where he inked a football letter of intent to play next season for the Lumberjacks.
“Basically he is getting a full ride, which is pretty exciting,” said PHS football coach Josh Anderson. “They (the football program) is paying for everything that his academics (scholarship) does not.”
For the Wilson family the scholarship comes as a welcome financial relief that includes a bonus of playing close to his hometown.
“My parents are really happy and I get to stay in Arizona, which is what we all wanted,” he said.
In addition to excelling in athletics the past four seasons, Wilson is an honor roll student, a role model and student leader at PHS.
He is maintaining a 3.9 GPA while enrolled in college prep studies that includes two AP classes this year.
Principal Roy Sandoval lauds him as “a high academic achiever, with good moral values, who applies both to his leadership responsibilities.”
Sandoval also said it is student athletes like Wilson who “positively impact the culture of the entire school.”
The financial aid package Wilson is to receive might only be matched in value by the prestigious Flinn scholarships that PHS graduates Niki Hale, Mark McCarty and Beryl Jones earned.
Honors flow in
The 6-foot-6-inch, 272-pound Wilson was tapped in December of 2008 to the All-Arizona offense as a lineman.
He also is a three-year varsity starter who was named first team All-East region, first team All-State and Arizona Sports Network Co-Player of the Year, along with teammate Bryan Burke.
Last summer he was named one of the state’s top 50 football players by azcentral.com.
Only three “small school” players were tapped to the top 50.
Also in the summer of 2008 he was named the MVP of the Big Man Challenge at a Northern Arizona University-hosted football camp.
It was after he returned from the camp, that Wilson said he was thinking about attending NAU and continuing his football career there.
“After the football season I started getting really serious, and then when I went on my visit (Jan. 16), I was sure I wanted to go there,” he said. “I think I’ll be playing offensive tackle there.”
In the Horns’ perfect 14-0 state championship season, Wilson helped Payson’s power option offense carve out 4,311 yards on the ground and 1,299 through the airways.
He was widely considered one of the finest pass and run blockers in the 3A conference.
Defensively, Wilson finished with 89 tackles, 35 of which were unassisted, four sacks for 30 yards in losses, one interception and one fumble recovery.
What Wilson contributed that most fans don’t recognize is that he forced opposing coaches to spend much of the pre-game practice week scheming on how to block him — whether double teams were needed — and how to fend off his offensive blocking.
In the state championship game, Blue Ridge often double-teamed him, hoping to gain control of the line of scrimmage.
While the strategy was somewhat successful in the first half, Wilson took over control in the final two quarters, helping fuel Payson’s amazing comeback from a three-touchdown deficit.
In addition to his accomplishments in football, Wilson excels in both basketball and track and field.
With his senior basketball season gradually winding down, he’s averaging 7.6 ppg on 54 percent shooting from the field, one of the best accuracy marks on the team.
He’s also third on the team in rebounding with 116 and is known to be particularly tough on the defensive boards where 71 of his retrieves have come. Wilson also has 25 assists, 20 blocks, 21 steals and is one of the reasons the Horns are steaming toward their second consecutive East Region title.
As a junior, he was named to the 3A state all-tournament team after helping the Longhorns earn a state runner-up finish.
He was also first team all-region, averaging 7.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. In addition, Wilson was Payson’s third leading shot blocker, with 14 rejections.
This year he is again a candidate for postseason honors.
In the shot-put event at last spring’s Arizona state track championships, he finished fifth with a toss of 48 feet, 10.5 inches.
This spring, with even more experience and maturity, he is expected to throw even farther.
While the prep season is over for most high schoolers, Wilson will play in one final game when he and his North All-Star teammates take on the South in this summer’s Arizona Football Coaches Association All-Star game in Surprise.
Upon enrolling next fall at NAU, he plans to major in physical therapy.
“I’d kind of like to stay close to sports when I graduate,” he said.