Devin Wilson lay motionless on the practice field.
After the Tennessee State University receiver got hit hard on a crossing route, he was paralyzed and waited for a trip to the hospital. Thoughts not only of his playing career but even his ability to walk and run again being in jeopardy flooded through his mind.
But today, the wiry 6-foot-3, 205-pound Wilson is better than ever and ready for his senior season. Wednesday he was one of the recipients of the A.D. Hancock-Walter Nipper Sportsmanship Awards at Swett’s Restaurant.
The awards, sponsored by the Nashville City Civitan Club, are presented to football players from Nashville high schools that won their regions as well as to a TSU player.
“It happened on a Tuesday before the Florida A&M game in September  of my sophomore year, I got hit as I was running a route across the middle,’’ Wilson said after receiving his award. “Next thing I remember, I was in Vanderbilt Hospital.”
With a spinal cord injury, he was unable to move for about seven hours.
“I was conscious, but everything was a blur,” he said. “They kept me overnight, and I wasn’t sure of anything until I had movement in my limbs after the MRI.
“It was a life-changing experience. When I got out and had complete movement again, I made up my mind I was going to make the most of it. I’ve joined the FCA, I’ve made talks about it and how I owe everything to God.”
The mishap hasn’t slowed Wilson down. He was TSU’s leading receiver last fall, when the Tigers went 5-6, and he has learned to appreciate football even more.
“It makes you realize that you’re not promised anything and to make each day count,” the 21-year-old said. “I play as hard as ever because, the way I look at it, I’ve been through it before. I’ve got nothing to lose. I don’t mind going over the middle. [Last fall], in the Eastern Kentucky game, I got hit hard and had some flashbacks, but I was OK.
“My fellow receivers at TSU were calling me the indestructible man because all I’d gone through and still going strong.”
Coach Rod Reed got a bit emotional as he introduced Wilson.
“Devin has the inner drive and he competes so well with great effort,” Reed said. “He has come back as strong as ever.”
“This has helped me grow as a football player, a person and in so many ways. I owe so much to God and allowing me this second chance,” Wilson, who played in high school at Pope John Paul II under coach Jeff Brothers, said.
Maplewood Coach Arcentae Broome was named Civitan Hancock-Nipper coach of the year after guiding his team to the Class 4A state finals game last month.
“It’s a great honor,” he said. “One thing you learn through the years is to be humble and realize that it’s younger people (players) and older people (assistant coaches) who do all the work. I just try to manage things.”
The high school recipients:
• Eric Miles, Antioch: The senior safety/running back helped lead the Bears to a surprise Region 6-A championship.
“This is a great honor and proves that hard work pays off. As a senior, I tried to exert more leadership. I knew we had the team to accomplish special things,” said Miles, who had five interceptions.
For college, he has shown interest in Lindsey-Wilson, Carson-Newman and Cumberland.
• Daniel Mathis, Donelson Christian Academy: The Wildcat defensive back has a 4.25 GPA, a 33 ACT.
“He’s made only one ‘B’ since he’s been in high school,” said coach Dennis Goodwin, adding Mathis will likely attend Washington University in St. Louis.
• Rodney Edmiston, Ensworth: The strong safety was key in the Tigers’ march to the DII state title.
“Rodney is the epitome of what this award is all about. He makes you smile with the wonderful smile he brought each day to practice,” said coach Ricky Bowers.
• Jacob Dyer, Goodpasture: The wide receiver was second in catches and fourth on the team in tackles. He is a member of FCA and teaches Bible studies.
“He had a wonderful influence on our team,” said coach David Martin.
• Wagner Serrano, Maplewood: A four-year starter, Serrano was an excellent kicker/punter for the Panthers, accurate on booting extra points and constantly placing punts inside the 20. Broome said he is very interested in playing for TSU.