Josh Wilson talks so much during Scrabble sessions that he has made his younger cousins cry. He talks so much while playing board games "that you're ready to just quit the game," his older sister, Talyce, said. He talks so much that roommate Ricardo Dickerson coined a term for the cornerback's argumentative discourses: "philosophizing the situation."
And he talks so much that his mother, Valanda, finally discovered a foolproof way to stop the noise.
"You keep feeding him," she said. "That way, he stops talking."
Hard to do on a football field, though, so the Terps' cornerback is constantly leaking words. Watch him at practice, for example, his mouth moving during a punt coverage drill as he closes in on Vernon Davis. Davis drops the ball, and Wilson giggles.
"All the time, yeah, all the time," Gerrick McPhearson said of his fellow cornerback's chatter.
"Chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp," defensive coordinator Gary Blackney summarized.
"Just getting my mouth open," Wilson said by way of explanation. "I'm gonna let you know how I feel."
Which is why, when the Diamondback student newspaper published a column last spring bemoaning the "easy majors" chosen by high-profile athletes and doubting their study habits, Wilson only briefly joined his teammates in grousing about the column. Then he sat down and wrote a 600-word response, which the paper printed, defending the football program, laying out his typical academic schedule and specifying several of his teammates' challenging majors. He created a new e-mail address that ran with the story, eliciting about 50 replies, and was approached by several athletes outside the football team who thanked him for responding.
"I don't like to let things go," he said. "If I have something to say about a subject, I'm going to say it. I'm not going to make you change your mind, I'm going to make you understand where I'm coming from."
Case in point: A grade of 89.5 percent he received in a four-credit microeconomics class last fall that wasn't rounded up to an A. Wilson appealed to the professor, twice talked to Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen about the grade, attempted to see an assistant dean and fired off approximately six e-mails, although the grade was never changed. The junior marketing major's grade-point average is better than 3.0, but he said that leaves him in the bottom of the pack at Maryland's business school and he would rather be at the top.
This comes as no surprise to his mother, who was once told by her son that he didn't want to go to N.C. State -- long his first choice -- and instead would attend Maryland. Why? Because the Wolfpack's coaches had never talked to him about academics, he didn't want to assume he would one day make a living playing football, and "If you're not telling me about your education, I feel there's something you're trying to hide from me," he said. "When I came to Maryland, that was all [Friedgen] talked about."
Of course, Valanda Wilson was already used to driving the 30 minutes from DeMatha High School back to the family's Upper Marlboro home with her interior lights on because Josh wanted to do homework -- he had a 3.6 GPA in high school. And when he got in trouble as a grade-schooler, it was never because of grades: "Constantly the talking," Valanda Wilson said.
While she remembers her son running his mouth even in preschool, there was a time when the volume ceased. When Wilson was 11 and playing organized football for the first time, his boys and girls club team advanced to a championship game. That morning, his father -- former Maryland fullback Tim Wilson, who went on to block for Earl Campbell in the NFL -- suffered a fatal heart attack.
After some agonizing, Valanda Wilson decided not to inform her two children immediately and instead told them back at the house after the game was won. Josh vividly recalls the entire day until the conversation with his mother, at which point the memories stop.
After that day, he was "messed up" for a year, got defensive with schoolmates and withdrew into a shell -- "that was a quiet period," he said. For years, he would tear up and refuse to talk about his father when the subject came up. When he went to other people's funerals, he would think of his father and cry.
It wasn't until high school that he "let the whole thing go" and began talking about it, and by now he is used to answering the questions. He remains in frequent contact with Campbell, whom he calls "Uncle Earl," and felt comfortable attending his father's alma mater because they play different positions, making comparisons more difficult.
Going to Maryland also allowed him to become schoolmates with his mother, who is on track to receive a master's degree in business management this spring, and his sister, who plans to finish her bachelor's degree at the same time. Josh Wilson hopes to finish his business degree by January of his senior year.
In the meantime, there is football. He and McPhearson, both of whom ran sprints for the track team last winter, should make one of the swifter cornerback duos in the nation. And Wilson's legs, naturally, won't be the only things moving.
"My mouth," he said, "isn't gonna stop."