The effort the Oregon Ducks have put into expanding their recruiting reach in recent years is readily apparent, and the more success the program has, the more attractive it becomes to prospects far and wide. Nowhere has that been more evident than in Texas.
While there have been some misses, there have been plenty of success stories to come out of the Ducks' efforts in Texas. LaMichael James broke nearly every running back record in Oregon football history in his three years as the starting running back.
Running back Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto), the No. 55 player in the ESPN 150, recently committed to the Ducks after a recruitment in which offers poured in from elite programs nationwide.
"It was really a dream come true. It was a blessing to able to speak with and look at schools all around the country, but Oregon is a school I have always dreamed about for a number of reasons," Wilson said.
While there have been many players that have contributed to the Ducks’ recent rise to prominence, none were more important than James. After a rocky start that left him homesick with his bags packed and ready to head home, he became an example of what can happen if a recruit sticks with what he started. The Ducks did lose Lache Seastrunk, Dontae Williams and Tra Carson to transfer after just one year in Eugene, but the latest Texas running back to commit to the Ducks looks to James as an example on how to overcome adversity.
"I heard the story about how he felt homesick and was on his way out until he realized there was nothing good back home. He manned up and made a decision that turned out to be the best choice he ever made,” Wilson said. “Look at him now. I know he appreciates what everyone at Oregon did for him. He's an easy guy to model yourself after."
The familiarity with Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell, Chip Kelly's offense and the recent success of James, with whom Wilson shares many similar traits on and off the field, gave the Ducks an edge over the likes of Texas, Ohio State, LSU and others.
"I saw what LaMichael was able to do in that offense and I see a lot of myself when I watch him,” Wilson said. “We both have speed and we're tougher than we get credit for. Oregon is built on speed and when you see the athletes they have flying around the field, you want to be a part of that."
It was more than Oregon's speed that attracted Wilson to Eugene, but it isn't hard to see a perfect fit.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound back is also an elite sprinter. He recently helped DeSoto to the Class 5A team state championship while competing as a member of the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams in addition to the 200-meter dash. Both of DeSoto's relay squads ran the best time in the nation in 2012 with a time of 40.09 seconds in the 400 relay and 1:24.04 in the 800 relay. Both times register in the top five historically at the high school level. Wilson's season-best in the 200 as a junior was 21.1.
Oregon's long and illustrious track and field history also played a role in his decision to commit to the Ducks.
"I know the history of track success there. They have been close to winning the NCAA title a few times lately but they haven't had the sprinters to push them over the top,” Wilson said. “If people think the football team is fast, they are only going to get faster with me and [fellow 2013 commit] Thomas [Tyner]. Oregon is known for distance, but soon they are going to know what it's like to have elite sprinters, too."
The willingness of both head coaches to give Wilson the freedom to compete in both sports played a major role in his decision.
"Coach Kelly and Coach [Vin] Lananna both said I can do whatever I want to do as long as I am there when they need me,” Wilson said. “I appreciate that because I love both sports and want to do the best I can at both of them."
Even with his track prowess, football is the No. 1 priority to Wilson, who said, "I've been playing it all my life and I love the competitive nature of the game. You have to work together and beat 11 guys on every play."
On the gridiron, the four-star running back is in awe of the way Oregon is able to get the ball to the right guy at the right time and let them go to work in space.
"I see LaMichael [James], De'Anthony [Thomas], Kenjon [Barner] and all those guys get the ball and just go off,” Wilson said. “Why wouldn't you want to play in that offense. My size, speed and skills were a perfect fit and I can't wait to be a part of it."
Oregon hopes the trend of recent Texas backs transferring out after one year has come to an end. Wilson brings the skill set to maintain the recent run of success on the field and help solidify the track program in hopes to push them over the top to the elusive national title.
"I just want to be the best in both sports and Oregon gives me the opportunity to do that," Wilson said.