It happened in the blink of an eye.
Former Sooner wide receiver Corey Wilson was set to have a breakout spring for the University of Oklahoma and earn significant playing time for the 2009 season.
Then it happened. Wilson was traveling southbound on I-35 when his Chevrolet Trailblazer collided with a pickup, ran off the road and rolled twice, throwing him about 45 feet from the vehicle. With an injury that doctors felt he may not walk again, Wilson is proving them wrong daily and focused on his future.
Fast-forward to November 29, 2009 in a game against Oklahoma St., Wilson stood up from his wheelchair and walked to midfield with the assistance of a walker, while receiving one of the loudest ovations ever heard at Owen Field.
"I almost teared up, seeing that," said former offensive lineman Brian Simmons. "To see him stand up and overcome, that made my day."
The road to recovery has been a long and traitorous process for Wilson who is using the work ethic instilled in him from his football days at OU to guide him through.
“My work ethic definitely put me in the right mind set to handle this situation I've been put in, I remember calling Smitty (University of Oklahoma’s strength and conditioning coach) after I got out of the hospital and thanking him for the work ethic he instilled in me,” said Wilson.
“The mental toughness I learned while working with him really made it easy to get an early start on my rehab and have a great attitude towards it.”
Though his mental toughness is keeping him focused on his ultimate goals. Wilson is not in this journey alone.
Surrounded by family, former teammates and coaches, Wilson has been blessed with a tremendous support system through this whole process.
“My family has been the most important to me. My mom has done more for me than I could imagine even though she doesn't even tell me half of the things she does,” said Wilson.
“My brother Travis (former Sooner wide receiver) brought a quote into our family he learned from a teammate in Cleveland, "do you want to be good or great?" It's something I honestly ask myself with ANYTHING I do.”
A quote that he has taken to heart, Corey has set out a list of goals the he plans to accomplish no matter what is thrown at him.
His first goal is to earn his degree in Human Relations from Oklahoma and added jokingly that it would be great to get his degree before his brother Travis.
Other than school, Corey plans on starting his own foundation to fund the research, prevention and care for spinal cord injuries as well as ultimately working with the Christopher Reeves Foundation.
“I have thought of many different ways to raise money, I want to get to the point where I don't have to hesitate to help anybody out who is put in my situation, it is a dream of mine,” said Wilson.
With the goals and aspirations to do great things not only for himself but also for others who have been put in this same situation, Wilson still thinks about how his football career ended on that dreadful day.
“It wasn't so much of my career being over, one way or another everybody’s career is going to be over eventually but I felt like it happened way too quickly for me, I felt like I had really been taking steps in the right direction to be able to get on the field and prove myself” said Wilson.
“It still bothers me from time to time just knowing how much I put into that year and thinking about the accident coming two days before I got my chance at spring practice, people always tell me football isn't everything and I shouldn't think about it so much, but I feel like if it didn’t bother me that I wasted my time all those years I was playing football with the dreams of playing on the college level, it's more motivation than anything.”
Although the accident and injuries he suffered were damaging, this whole journey has been and eye opening experience for Wilson and has taught him some important life lessons.
“It has helped me put a lot of things into perspective. Being young you put certain things higher on your priority list than more important things, and being in this situation has helped me rearrange some of those things,” said Wilson.
Wilson who is currently enrolled in summer school is also continuing his rehab with a specialist in Dallas, TX and the results have been very encouraging so far.
"I'm optimistic about actually walking and living a functional life without the wheelchair,” Wilson said. "It's the most optimistic I've been since the accident.”
Though this isn’t the life he imagined Wilson is taking it stride for stride and making the best of things, while always remembering the quote his brother instilled in him.
“Do you want to be good or great?”