By JOEL COLEMAN
It’s a critical game and Mississippi State is driving down the field. Senior quarterback Dak Prescott checks the defense. The opposition is in man coverage. Odds are, that can mean only one thing. Big game Bear is about to make his presence felt.
Junior wide receiver De’Runnya ‘Bear’ Wilson has developed quite the reputation for shining during the biggest moments in his Bulldog career. That’s why when Prescott needs to make a big play, he tends to rely heavily on his 6-foot-5, 215-pound target.
“On one-on-one coverage, I’m going to take ‘Bear’ over anybody in the SEC or anybody in the country,” Prescott said. “That’s just my confidence in him. The confidence we have in each other, I know he’s going to go up and get the ball and get it at its highest point, and that’s another thing he did (against Auburn last week). I’m going to get him the ball when I need to.”
As Prescott referenced, Wilson is coming off of another high-profile game in which he put up big numbers. In Mississippi State’s 17-9 win over Auburn last Saturday, Wilson made five catches for 43 yards, including a highlight-reel touchdown grab in the second quarter that gave the Bulldogs a two-possession advantage at 14-0.
Such outings have become routine for the Birmingham, Alabama native, particularly when the stakes are at their highest. Now in his third year at MSU, Wilson has played in 17 Southeastern Conference games. In those contests, he has hauled in 63 receptions for 880 yards and nine touchdowns.
Following his most recent performance, Wilson tried to explain his tendency to play better in the clutch.
“You can’t stop big-time players from making big-time plays,” Wilson said. “That’s what I try to bring to the offense and what I bring to the table. That’s just what I do.”
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen says Wilson is driven to perform better as the stages get bigger. It’s just part of Wilson’s makeup says MSU’s seventh-year leader.
“I think he likes (big moments),” Mullen said. “That’s just kind of him. He likes the big games.
“When the lights are on, he wants to be a star player. He has that type of personality. In big games, he wants to make things happen. He has such great size that if you’re going to play him man-to-man, he’s a tough man-to-man matchup because he has size and ball skills.”
What makes the development of Wilson’s talents so unique is that this is just his fourth year to ever play football. In high school, Wilson’s senior season was his only varsity campaign on the gridiron. For the majority of his prep career, Wilson focused his skills on the hardwood, eventually being named Mr. Basketball in the state of Alabama in 2013.
Wilson even went on to spend time on MSU’s basketball team for a portion of the 2013-2014 season.
MSU wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales thinks that Wilson’s time on the basketball court has proven to serve him well as a wide receiver. It helped developed Wilson’s mentality as he strives to fine-tune his abilities.
“Bear has done a great job of continuing to get better,” Gonzales said. “I still think he’s raw and I still think he’s got a lot to improve on. He understands he’s still got to continue to work. Bear is such a big kid. He’s a competitor. A lot of it goes back to him playing basketball. He’s played at a high level before. He understands what it is to compete at a high level.”
With six more regular season conference games to play this season, along with the possibilities of postseason play very much alive, Wilson will have plenty more opportunities to be at his best. That’s just the way that he, and Gonzales, wants it.
“When you get here, you’re playing in this conference, in the SEC, you’ve got to be able to play at a high level,” Gonzales said. “If you’re not playing at your highest level every time you take a snap on the field, you don’t deserve to be out there. I expect (Wilson) to improve and continue to get better.”