National Football League scouts are making visits to Elon University football practices a regular thing. Most come to see senior wide receiver Aaron Mellette, who is currently projected to be a fourth or fifth-round draft pick come April 2013.
But according to head coach Jason Swepson, he’s not the only one being scouted.
“There’s a lot of scouts talking about him now,” Swepson said of senior quarterback Thomas Wil- son. “We’re having two or three scouts coming a day to see Aaron and they’re always asking about our quarterback.”
Take a look at Wilson’s stats so far this season. He’s thrown for 1,959 yards (second in the Southern Conference) and 18 touchdowns (first in the SoCon, sixth in all of Football Championship Subdivision). In passer efficiency, a stat computed by looking at touchdowns, interceptions, passing yards and completions, Wilson is first in the SoCon and seventh in the FCS.
Not shabby numbers by any means. But Wilson is quick to point to his receivers.
“When you’ve got a playmaker like Mellette out there to get the ball to, my numbers are going to be big because his numbers are going to be big,” Wilson said. “With him and (sophomore wide receiver) Kierre (Brown) and (junior wide receiver) Rasaun (Rorie) and JP (senior wide receiver Jeremy Peterson) and (senior tight end) Chris (Harris) and Juice (redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Davis) and all the guys that I have around to throw the ball to, I didn’t expect not to have good numbers with those athletes and the kind of playmakers around me. I just get them the ball and let them do the rest.”
Wilson watched Mellette do a lot of that against Western Carolina Oct. 20. Mellette had five catches for 154 yards and three scores. The last touchdown, with 1:12 left in the third quarter of Elon’s 42-31 win over the Catamounts, was a short pass from Wilson to Mellette that the senior wideout caught, made several defenders miss and out ran the rest of the defense for a score.
“When you watch Thomas and (Mellette), the next play could be a touchdown,” said Elon sophomore linebacker Jonathan Spain. “And it’s not just Merle either. Thomas is really throwing the ball around, distributing some love. They’re doing a great job over there.”
What might be even more impressive is that Swepson was not sure Wilson was supposed to play Saturday.
Swepson said Wilson did not practice in the bye week after suffering a non-throwing shoulder injury against Appalachian State University Oct. 6. The quarterback practiced in shoulder pads and shorts on Tuesday of last week, but missed practice Wednesday with a 102-degree fever. But Wilson was resilient.
“He came out Thursday, had a good practice,” Swepson said. “Came out Friday for the walkthrough, said he felt his best. I think he got his clearance from the doctors for the shoulder on Friday afternoon. He’s a tough kid.”
The senior from Raleigh said he knew from the beginning of the week that he was going to play against Western Carolina.
“I was going to do whatever I had to do to prepare myself to be able to play, whatever percent I was going to be at,” he said. “We worked hard in the last two weeks to get healthy. The trainers did a great job working with me and fitting me in the schedule and getting me in and out of there, just getting some good treatments in there, getting some range-of-motion back in there and getting ready for Saturday.”
Wilson said he was pleased with his performance against the Catamounts, save for one play: an interception in the end zone by Western Carolina freshman cornerback Jaleel Lorquet with 5:05 left in the first quarter. Other than that, he said he’s happy with how he’s performed this season, but not satisfied.
“I’m happy about it, but I’m not really content yet,” he said. “I’m ready to keep going and hopefully through the last few conference games we’ve got left. It’s not over yet. I’ve got to keep pro- tecting the ball and managing the game, as coach says, and try to lead us to wins.”
Wilson was second in the FCS in interceptions last year and is currently tied for fifth this season with eight. But it is a far cry from the same point last season, seven games into the season, when he had 15 picks.
“That’s what I worked on in the offseason, and I’m proud to say that it’s showing off in the games on Saturdays,” he said.
Harris caught a Wilson touchdown pass against Western Carolina when the quarterback lofted a long pass right into the tight end’s grasp on the way to a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
“It was pretty easy, just catch the ball and run,” he said.
He is very complimentary of his quarterback, crediting Wilson’s success to his preparation.
“He prepares better than anybody on the team, in my mind,” Harris said. “He’s extremely competitive. Even with this week. He was a little bit injured throughout the week, so he didn’t practice much. He gets his film work in, he goes to his rehab sessions and he got himself right obviously and was able to perform.”
And it’s that performance that will be crucial if Wilson is to move on to the next level.
“If he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s going to have an opportunity,” Swepson said.