On Nov. 6, 2010, Ole Miss junior offensive lineman Derrick Wilson found out that his mother, Jelks Wilson, had been diagnosed with cancer.
Wilson was at Horn Lake High School at the time and wanted to go see his mother when he got the call.
“When I found out, I wanted to go home, but my mother called and told me to stay at school,” Wilson said.
As time went on, Derrick’s mother went through chemotherapy treatments.
Wilson joined the East Mississippi Community College football team in 2011. The football team went undefeated and went to the National Junior College Championship game in Yuma, Ariz., where it won against Arizona Western College.
“After the season was over, I went home to check on my mother, and everything was fine,” Wilson said.
On Dec. 9, 2011, Derrick received a call that his mother’s cancer had spread to her brain.
“I had to immediately rush back home with the help of my coaches at East Mississippi,” Wilson said, “My grades were good enough where I didn’t have to take my finals, so I went home and was able to celebrate her birthday with her on December 13.”
Wilson noticed on Dec. 20 that something was different with his mom.
“I called her oncologist, and I was told to bring her to the hospital,” he said. “She didn’t come home after that.”
Doctors tried another round of chemotherapy, but his mother did not respond.
“When she came back to the room, she wasn’t talking, and her eyes were barely open,” Wilson said. “I told her if she could hear me to squeeze my hand, and then I felt the slightest squeeze.”
Wilson spent Christmas Day with his younger sisters, Fallon, 11, and Reagan, 3, and a cousin.
On Jan. 10, 2011, Wilson’s mother passed away. He took care of his sisters after his mother’s passing. Wilson is currently in a custody battle for his sister Fallon against his maternal grandmother.
“I think she just wants the money because of the Social Security check,” Wilson said.
Reagan is living with her dad in Memphis. With the upcoming bowl game, Wilson will not be able to spend much time with his sisters, and with Christmas coming up, he wants what’s best for them.
“I want them to have a great Christmas,” he said. “My mom would spend bill money if she had to in order to give us a great Christmas.”
Wilson was supposed to have a hearing Aug. 3, but it was postponed.
“We had to hire a guardian ad litem to see how Fallon interacted with our grandmother in Greenville,” Wilson said.
Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork, who has not spoken to Wilson about the matter, said his story is unique.
“The coaches and teammates have been supporting him and understand the story,” Bjork said. “I know Derrick has really done a great job on and off the field.”
Bjork said the athletics department is looking at a similar situation from a couple years ago at Clemson University where a fund was created to help an athlete adopt his sister after his own mother passed away.
“We’re looking into those avenues to see how we can support (Wilson),” Bjork said.
Kyle Campbell, assistant athletics director for media and public relations, said the athletics department is behind Derrick and doing what they can to help him.
“As an athletics department, we are currently looking into what ways we can assist Derrick,” he said. “He is a special young man with incredible courage, and we want to help him.”
Wilson said he has had to mature quickly since his mother’s passing and it continues today.
“I went from an average college student to being a grown man,” he said. “I have to be a disciplinarian for my younger sisters.”
Wilson’s girlfriend, Aniah Lust, a sophomore political science major, said she admires how Wilson remains the same person after his mother’s passing.
“He has continued to be the strong, funny person I met last year,” Lust said. “One thing has changed, though. He cherishes time more. He remains the loving person his mother created and not a person of bitterness or anger.”
Wilson does not know when his hearing will be, but he said his time at Ole Miss has had a positive effect on him.
“I love being here at Ole Miss,” he said. “Everybody embraces you and makes you feel like you are home.”
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