BLACKSBURG, Va. — No one on Virginia Tech’s football team runs the 40-yard dash faster than starting running back David Wilson. He was clocked at 4.29 seconds during the Hokies’ winter testing this year.
But when Wilson needs a reality check, all he has to do is walk across the street from Lane Stadium to his other domain, the Johnson-Miller Track Complex.
“If he tries to proclaim that he’s the fastest guy on my team,” Virginia Tech track and field Coach Charles Foster said with a laugh earlier this week, “I’ve got about two or three guys that can take him to the cleaners.”
Foster would know, because even though Wilson is set to fill the void left by record-setting tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans this fall, this is now the second spring in a row in which he’s moonlighted as a track and field athlete for the Hokies.
On Saturday, when the rest of his football teammates will take part in Virginia Tech’s spring game, Wilson will be in Cary, N.C., for the ACC outdoor track and field championships. He’s slated to compete in the triple jump, long jump and 4x100-meter relay.
Wilson isn’t competing for the Hokies’ track team on a mere whim. Though he was rated by some recruiting services as the nation’s No. 4 running back recruit out of high school, Wilson told any prospective suitors he planned to be a two-sport athlete in college.
As a high school senior at George Washington-Danville in Virginia, he finished first in the triple jump at the Nike Indoor Nationals, and in February he captured a bronze medal in the triple jump at the ACC indoor track and field championships, leaping more than 51 feet 9 inches.
“I enjoyed track so much in high school and being a national champion in high school, I wanted to see how well I would compete with the guys on the next level, as well as football,” said Wilson, who will be a junior this fall. “That comes back to me loving competition. Just being out there competing, one-on-one basically. Track is a team sport in the end, but when you’re in your events, it’s on you to see what place you get and how fast you’re going and how far you can jump.”
During his first two seasons at Virginia Tech, Wilson proved to be a dynamic playmaker in limited duty, and he is expected to see a heavy workload as the Hokies break in new quarterback Logan Thomas. Returning kicks and splitting carries with Williams and Evans last season, Wilson led Virginia Tech in all-purpose yards and scored a touchdown once every 14 times he touched the ball.
He also made Virginia Tech’s dean’s list last semester and has the full support of Coach Frank Beamer when it comes to his endeavors outside of the football team. Wilson said he never considered giving up track this spring to focus on his increased responsibilities on the football field — both Williams and Evans are now NFL draft prospects — or to get acquainted with his new position coach, Shane Beamer.
He has missed three football practices and three meetings so far this spring, and he’s able to attend only two or three track practices per week.
“He could be among the very best if he was just sprinting and jumping and not playing football, because of his talent and his athletic drive,” said Foster, who previously coached football players C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford while at Clemson. “But I appreciate [that] Coach Beamer understands my talents and that I’m gonna send him back a faster athlete. I tell them: ‘I don’t teach you how to play football. I teach you how to play football better,’ through quickness and speed training.”
Wilson and Shane Beamer both said the biggest benefit to Wilson being on the track team is the extra cardio workouts he goes through in the spring. Under NCAA rules, football teams are allowed to have only 15 formal practice sessions every spring.
Last Wednesday, Wilson said he stepped on a scale and weighed 208 pounds and decided to lose the seven pounds that separated him from his playing weight. So he went to the track and began racing the fastest guys on the track team.
“I beat them out the blocks,” Wilson said. “I can’t wait to put my pads on and see if it transfers.”
The next day, when Virginia Tech held its second full scrimmage of the spring, Wilson wowed his coaches by scoring three touchdowns and gaining 76 yards on just eight carries. Frank Beamer wondered how it was possible that Wilson looked faster than ever.
“We may need to send a couple more guys over there to track and let them come on back,” Beamer said. “I thought he was something there in the few plays he had.”