Matt Wilson, a starting two-way lineman on Payson High’s 2008 undefeated 3A state championship football team, has taken his gridiron act to the next level.
And it all could be seen on TV because the former Horn was a starting offensive tackle when his school, Northern Arizona University, played the University of Arizona Wildcats Sept. 3 in an interstate game that was nationally televised.
From a small town high school football field to ESPN is a big jump for any football player.
In high school Wilson was hulking by prep standards, but now he’s listed as 6 feet, 6 inches and almost 300 pounds.
That’s a good-sized lineman, I don’t care who you are.
Wilson also excels in the classroom as evidenced by his winning the 2010 Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete Award.
At Payson High he ranked seventh in his graduating class with a 3.9 GPA. At NAU, he is majoring in forestry.
As a senior at PHS in December of 2008, Wilson received one of the highest honors a prep athlete can win by being named to the All-Arizona offense as a lineman.
That’s quite an accomplishment because those who select such teams often overlook small school players preferring to select those from the Class 4A and 5A “big school” powerhouses.
At PHS he was also 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.
The summer prior to his senior year, he was named one of the state’s top 50 football players.
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 that camp, that Wilson indicated he was thinking about attending NAU and continuing his football career there.
It’s easy to see why NAU offered him a scholarship.
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.
In addition to his accomplishments in football, Wilson excelled in both basketball and track and field.
As a senior in basketball, he averaged 7.6 ppg on 54 percent shooting from the field, one of the best accuracy marks on the team.
He was also third on the team in rebounding with 116 and was known to be particularly tough on the defensive boards where 71 of his rebounds were corralled.
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.
In track and field he excelled in the shot put with throws approaching 50 feet his junior and senior season.
After graduating from PHS and before enrolling at NAU, he played in the Arizona Football Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game.
While Wilson was the recipient of numerous accolades and awards at his PHS graduation, probably his finest plaudits came from then-principal Roy Sandoval who said, “Matt was a high academic achiever, with good moral values, who applies both to his leadership responsibilities.
“He positively impacted the culture of the entire school.”