By Jupiter Wilson
I am a proud to say I am a Tar Heel. When I am asked where I graduated from, without hesitation I say the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. People are always fascinated that I graduated and played football at such a prestigious university. I will say that my life has been shaped by the opportunities that were given and presented to me at my great alma mater.
I played on the offensive line and was a four-year Letterman at guard from 1999-2003. I worked hard to start three years and receive the Jack Sapp Award as the best all-around senior in 2003. On the playing field, I learned about hard work, preparation and to learn how to deal with defeat and disappointment. As a member of the 2001 Peach Bowl championship squad, I learned how much I can achieve if I put forth the desire and effort. I wasn’t fond of running 300s or waking up at 6 a.m. for workouts, but I had to learn to embrace the challenge. After seeing the benefits of how it helped me and the players around me, I looked forward to the 300s and the workouts because I knew that there was a means to an end for perseverance.
As a student at Carolina, I relished all the opportunities that were afforded me. I remember academic counselors like Carl Carey and Laurie Yakubec who told me what to expect from the academic side and the means to achieve a degree. I remember my Math 10 and Math 30 teacher who always was there when I needed extra tutoring and encouragement. I did not do as well as I would have liked, but I always had the resources to accomplish the tasks. My post-football goal was to become a teacher, and Coach John Bunting and his staff were great in allowing me to miss some practices because of class conflicts and to work part-time with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System, where I tutored students with their homework and helped plan enrichment activities.
I was involved in various other organizations beyond football. I attended campus Bible Study, was a member of the Black Student Movement and sang and played drums with the University Gospel Choir. These endeavors shaped the social fabric of the person I am today. I enjoyed the people, friendships and networking circle these organizations afforded me.
Since earning my degree in Exercise and Sports Science in 2004, I have taught four years in the North Carolina public school system and three years in Virginia. I’ve won a state title as a track coach and reached the state title game in football as offensive coordinator at Vance High in Charlotte. I am now the head football coach at my alma mater, Hickory High School in Chesapeake, Va., where I get to mold young men and shape their future. As I told members of a congregation where I am an ordained minister, “I love my job.” Not many people get to do exactly what they wanted to do in the field they prepared for in school. This great university has been a key asset in all of this.
I’ve been saddened to follow all the negative news reports about the athletic and academic conflicts in Chapel Hill. What I am hearing does not match up with my experiences at Carolina. As I write this letter in the midst of holding my newborn, I am reminded that one day I would love for her to be able to see this great university and all it has to offer—games, social activities and, most importantly, an outstanding education. We as student-athletes have an opportunity to come to Carolina and get an education; it is up to us individually to get all we can from the experience.
I know there are many more players who stand beside me in saying that the core values and experiences learned at UNC has made them a better father, husband, and most importantly, a better man. I’m a Tar Heel born and bred.
Jupiter Wilson, Chesapeake, Va.
Tar Heel Letterman 2000-03
Head Football Coach, Hickory High, Chesapeake, Va.