Like Wilson, Tripp starred at the University of Montana and the two actually were teammates there for one season.
“It’s great,” Wilson said during a recent appearance on The Finsiders. “When I went back to Montana for my senior year, he was actually a freshman there, maybe a sophomore. But it was great just to be with him when he was that young and to see how good he is and how good of a guy he remained. He became a great football player and he’s an even better person. He’s somebody that I really care for. He’s like a brother to me.”
In this case, Wilson is the big brother and he’s looking forward to helping out any way he can.
It’s all part of the maturation of Jimmy Wilson, both on and off the field, since he joined the Dolphins as a seventh-round pick in 2011.
“It’s good just being a guy that he can call on any time of day, any time of night just if he’s having trouble with something, whether what the safety is doing in certain calls or what certain calls he needs to make, he can give me a call,” Wilson said. “I already told him, if he’s ever feeling uncomfortable or out of his mode, out of sync, he can give me a call, come chill with me. We’ll get him back on track.”
Wilson added that Tripp appears to be picking things up very well, appears to be on track.
There are things he’ll have to learn, though, things that Wilson discovered through his first three seasons in the league.
It’s that knowledge that has helped Wilson become a key member of the Dolphins secondary and a core player on special teams. On defense, Wilson has carved a niche as the nickel back, while on special teams he has shown a knack for blocking kicks — he already has tied the franchise record with three blocked punts.
Wilson has steadily improved on the field and is coming off his best season. In 16 games, including three starts, Wilson posted career highs in 2013 with two interceptions and 38 tackles.
The previous year, he also had two sacks, evidence of the many things Wilson can do for a team.
“When (former general manager) Jeff Ireland was here, he just called me a football-playing Jesse,” Wilson said. “I kind of like that. You can line me up at linebacker, whatever. Whatever I can do to contribute and help this team win, I really appreciate and take pride in that.”
Perhaps Wilson wouldn’t have developed as a player the way he has if not for his growth as a person.
Since joining the Dolphins, Wilson has gotten married and had a child. He’s also matured as a player.
“When I first got in the league, I was more basing everything off just athletic ability and really didn’t understand how to be a pro,” he said. “It takes time to understand exactly how to be a pro and learn from other professionals.
“I’ve got a family now, so every offseason is going to change a little bit for me. The first year may have been a little wilder, but now everything has calmed down. Real family-oriented because you’re missing from them for six months when you’re out here grinding. It was good to get with your family and just get prepared and do the right things.”
Wilson also is trying to do the right things for others, which is why he joined the Above .500 Foundation and is getting ready to host the Jimmy Wilson Charity Softball Game.
The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 14 at the Florida International University baseball field in Miami, and will feature several Dolphins teammates as well as other local celebrities.
“Doing things to give back to the community around here,” Wilson said. “Florida has some of the best talent in the whole nation. It’s just a shame how a lot of these kids get looked over or don’t make it to their full potential because of circumstance or whatever is going on around them, so I try to give back in some charity events to make sure that these kids, they see professionals and they see that it’s possible to go through obstacles and still remain on top as long as you keep working hard and working toward a great goal.”
As pointed out on the foundation’s website (above500.org), Wilson himself was a young athlete whose road to success took a detour.
After being an All-Big Sky Conference selection as a junior in 2006, Wilson spent two years in jail before being acquitted of homicide charges in the shooting death of his aunt’s boyfriend.
Wilson actually went to trial twice after jurors were not able to reach a verdict the first time, voting 11-1 to acquit Wilson after a week of deliberations. Prosecutors refiled the charges.
After being acquitted in July of 2009, Wilson went back to Montana for his senior season the following year and subsequently was drafted by the Dolphins.
“My story is a prime example,” Wilson is quoted on the website. “If you work hard at your goals, anything is possible no matter what environment you come from, and that’s what the Above .500 Foundation is all about.”
The event at FIU will start at 5 p.m. and will include a home-run derby, a meet-and-greet for fans who purchase VIP tickets, and the softball game.
There is a $15 donation required for admission, and VIP passes are available for $100 and include pictures and autographs from the celebrities.
Among the Dolphins players expected to attend the event are
Per its website, the Above .500 Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to using sports and education to encourage middle and high school students to lead positive lives. The foundation exhibits “Dream Rallies“ at public schools that include celebrity appearances, games, motivational speakers, music performances and giveaways. Dream Rallies aim to improve students’ lives and spread the foundation’s positive message of hard work, dedication and success. “With a ‘Character over Talent’ mentality, Above .500 Foundation believes that anyone, no matter the obstacle, loss or setback, can stay Above .500 and become a champion with the right attitude and character.”
For Dolphins players, the event represents the chance to support their teammate for a good cause, interact with their fans and, yes, show off their softball skills.
“It’s going to be good for the community, good for us to get to know the fans and kind of get away from football a little bit,” cornerback Jamar Taylor said. “I played (baseball) when I was little, but we had a charity softball game in college (at Boise State) every year. I might have to get to the cages next week for sure.”