As an athletic trainer it is sometimes hard to get away for events and to watch other football games as generally hard as there are things always going on. I missed my twenty year reunion earlier this year as Tech had a football game that same night. It just so happened that Tech’s last football game fell on a Saturday afternoon granting me the time to travel to my old stomping grounds of Killeen High School to see Killeen High School play Harker Heights High School with play-offs births on the line for both teams. However the trip was more meaningful than just the game, a high school athletic trainer, the gentlemen who took care of me through four years of playing high school soccer and influenced me to get into athletic training was/will retire after 57 years.
Al “Doc” Wilson came to Killeen High School when he interviewed with legendary Leo Buckley back in 1961 and was and hasn’t left since. The Stadium that sits on Killeen High Schools campus is now named after the coach who hired the first athletic trainer in central Texas. From a seventh grade football coach, to teacher, to teaching drivers education you can imagine the many stories and the countless people that Doc has come in contact with is crazy even to think about. It is not a true number, but Doc Wilson has group page on Facebook called the “Al “Doc” Wilson Training Room Memoirs” that has over 460 members in it currently. The other night I was scrolling through it and there is a story back from 1964 when he was teaching drivers education and he had several young ladies in the care with him as they were putting in their driving hours. He found out one of the two young ladies had a crush on a young man at the time, so unknown to the young lady he had her drive up to the young man’s house and stop. Everyone else in the car thought it was hilarious except the young lady of course. They all passed the course with a lot of great memories.
So when I came along my freshmen year, I was a soccer player who was bound for college/professional glory . . . or so I thought. I still remember the first time I met Doc Wilson and it was pleasant. I had been hit in the head, and at the time I had a VP Shunt in from having hydrocephalus as a baby. Doc had said a lot in our first meeting but the part I remember was him telling me he might not allow me to play anymore soccer. I walked out of his office and the training room I am sure like that girl who parked in front of her crushes house not liking him and probably saying/thinking a bunch of curse words. Over the next four years, after the first year which I ended up playing but spent more time in the training room, I got to know both Doc Wilson and his son Andy Wilson who helped out at KHS quite a bit and appreciated what they were doing for me in the long run. A particular time that still comes to mind after a game when I was beat black and blue and I couldn’t make it past the table pictured below which is right inside the door. Doc WIlson had heard about our/my performance, he saw me come in as he was talking to a couple football coaches at his desk at the time, he excused himself from them and walked over and shook my hand and told me I had done a great job and asked what he could do for me. My intentions at this time were to still go on and play college soccer and hopefully make a career out of playing. Graduation came with many many hours logged in the training room getting taped, doing rehab, in the cold whirlpools, and doctor visits. One of which Andy Wilson took me and on the way back from finding out I had really messed up my thumb or ankle he ended up getting a speeding ticket. Kinda my fault (but he was the one driving) but to this day, when students don’t have rides the Wilson’s will go out of their to get them where they need to be whether that is home or to a doctors appointment. Well that college try-out came and I was offered a red shirt and through knowing what I had learned in the training room from Doc Wilson I made the decision that I was going to hang up the cleats as I wouldn’t have seen any playing time and study athletic training in college.
I attended a community college and volunteered at Killeen High School as well as Harker Heights High School for a year then followed in Andy’s foot steps and attended Angelo State University. Over the years I would come back when I could and still assist Doc on the sidelines. I would go on to graduate and after a brief stay working on my master’s, I got the job out at Midland Greenwood. My first year at Midland Greenwood, I was lucky to be part of at football team that ended up going to the state championship game and Doc Wilson came to watch the game knowing I had put in the work. That meant the world to me to somewhat know he respected what I had done. I have said and will continue to say, if I can achieve half of what Doc Wilson has in his career then I will consider my professional career to have been truly successful. The other saying I have heard about Doc Wilson’s career is that he has forgotten more athletic training information than most of us will ever learn in his years on the job. I have since had many of the same conversations with athletes that they might not be able to play anymore or probably shouldn’t anymore. Had kids leave the training room hating my guts. I’ve also had one of those young ladies who hated my guts go on to college and get into athletic training and is now an assistant athletic trainer at a school just south of Fort Worth and she said it was because of me that she got into athletic training and that is an honor in itself.
I have tried to ponder just how far Doc Wilson’s touch/influence has reached/inspired others. Back in 2009, I was part of a three person response team that worked on a young man that needed CPR and an AED to bring him back. We were lucky that day and the young mad survived and one of the highlights of my career was being asked by him to attend his college graduation. That was better than any state championship game I will every attend! That young man is alive in part because of the care I was given that got me interested in athletic training, not to say someone else may not have done the same but it was one of his students.
Some of Doc Wilson’s many honors include but are not limited to: Southwest Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame, National Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame, 1972 he was appointed to the State Licensure Board, and he was a part of the 1991 State Football Champions Killeen High School as well as State Track Team Champions.
On November 11th, he was honored at half-time of the Killeen Harker Heights game for his 57 years of service as he is set to retire at the end of the year. It was an honor to be able to go back to support him and take one last picture with him at the table that I spent so many hours on getting taped.
It was a touching tribute and an article that came from it with as many people that came to support Doc Wilson that night:
They all came to support Doc Wilson and I know I would not be who I am were it not for what he did for me, likewise Killeen High School would not be what it is today were not for all your years of service. I cannot thank you enough and you know that as we have had many a conversations. In the end Killeen High School did not win the game and thus will not be in the play-offs. So after the halftime celebration and after the opposing team came up one by one to shake Doc Wilson’s hand, there was a long line of past students, athletes, colleagues from the field all the way to the field house waiting to shake Doc’s hand. Then it was over . . . over in that Doc Wilson will no longer be on the sidelines at Killeen High School football games in the roll of head athletic trainer. The reach and influence of Doc Wilson will always live on and he has simply influenced too many lives. Just how many, during the celebration at halftime, as best they could guess. . . it was estimated that Doc Wilson has worked over 580 football games (just varsity). How many rolls of tape and how ankles that is over that time frame?
That same walk, that people were lined holds his name as another of many tributes he has gotten over the years. So every time athletes walk to the field from the field house, they will see his name.
As a former athlete, thank you for taking care of me and all the athletes you have encountered over your 57 years. As an athletic trainer, thank you for being my mentor and prime example of what an athletic trainer should be. As a person, thank you for being family!