From the sports editor: Wilson’s comeback really was a miracle

Octavion Wilson. Courtesy of Salisbury Athletics.

Octavion Wilson didn’t know what was going on with his body.

The numbness just seemed to pop up anywhere at any time.

“I started losing feeling in my upper leg, in my lower leg,” the former Milford High football player explained. “I mean I lost feeling in my lips and teeth one day, It was crazy.”

Wilson, who was playing football at Mount Union in Ohio at the time, was given a grave diagnosis by a doctor. The physician said he had peripheral neuropathy — a neuromuscular disease resulting from damage to the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord.

The outlook that the doctor gave Wilson was grim.

“The doctor looked me in the face and said, ‘This is an incurable disease,’” Wilson remembered. “‘You’ll probably have this the rest of your life. And football is probably totally off the table.’”

The thing to realize is that the Octavion Wilson that’s telling this story is a healthy 24-year-old who is coming off a really good season as a senior wide receiver at Salisbury in the fall.

The fact that Wilson was able to overcome both pericarditis and then peripheral neuropathy to return to the football field has earned him the Buddy Hurlock Unsung Hero Award from the Delaware Sportswriters & Broadcasters Association.

Wilson’s recovery from pericarditis — an inflammation of the lining around the heart — was pretty straight forward.

His comeback from peripheral neuropathy is a little more mysterious, however.

The original doctor, said Wilson, tried three different medications to combat the disease without much success.

“I finally just went home,” he said. “I was so fed up with that doctor. … I took the last bottle of pills I had. When that was done, I went through immediate withdrawal. I kind of just started living with it.”

Things didn’t get better. Not at first anyway.

The first main symptoms of the disease are its effects on the hands and feet. But, in Wilson’s case, it seemed to be spreading.

“I was waking up, not feeling the whole left side of my body,” he said. “I was walking throughout the day with pins and needles in my feet and hands — and face pains that were excruciating.”

Gradually, though, Wilson said his body started feeling better.

How was he cured? There doesn’t seem to be any simple answer.

For Wilson, though, there’s no question that God played a role. He said he hasn’t seen the doctor who made the original diagnosis since 2017.

“I haven’t felt any pains, no numbness,” said Wilson. “I feel healed. I played the whole football season.

“I’m living life again. Like, I don’t wake up and have to wait for my body to respond. I’m able to just get up and go now.”

Octavion Wilson has been through a life-changing ordeal over the last few years. And he’s glad he’s still here to tell his remarkable story.

He knows he almost didn’t make it.

There was one moment in the spring of 2016, when he was still at Mount Union, that Wilson decided that his life — or at least the one he pictured — wasn’t worth living any more.

“I just got to the point where I was in my room one time and I was actually contemplating suicide,” said Wilson. “I had to watch my team win a national championship, I had to withdraw from all classes that semester … it was kind of like my dream was being snatched from me.

“I’m sitting in my room, thinking ‘Do I even really want to be here?’ Thank God I had a friend — Luke Foreman — who sat with me that whole night. He made sure I was OK.”

This past December, Wilson was sitting in a Dunkin Donut shop when he found out he had been named the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year for Division III. The national award meant that he’d be honored on the field during the Fiesta Bowl.

As he sat there, with his phone blowing up with texts from friends, Wilson said he thought back to that low point in his life, when he was back in Ohio.

“I was like, ‘What if I actually would have taken my life that night?’” said Wilson. “I wouldn’t be sitting here … If I hadn’t pushed through that moment, nothing (good) would have happened this year. I wouldn’t have been here.”

With his health restored, so are Wilson’s dreams. He’s working out, trying to find a way to continue playing football at the pro level.

But he also says he wants to help people. He wants to make a difference with his life.

“I would never wish what I went through on somebody else,” said Wilson. “I think it was like God choosing a warrior and saying, ‘Hey, you might have to through this. But show other people that you can get through what you’re about to go through.’

“I’m glad He chose me to go through all that because now I can help other people. Because I’m not the only one who’s going to have those illnesses or be sick in their life. I think now is the time for me to help other people, to let them know you can get through it.”

(Editor’s note: Wilson and several other award winners will be honored at the DSBA’s 71st annual luncheon on Feb. 17 at noon in New Castle. Tickets are available at http://www.delasports.org/).

Veach a ‘Super’ GM

The last time I talked to Brett Veach, he was Andy Reid’s right-hand man.

He still is.

Only now, Veach — the former Delaware football standout — has come a long, long way from Reid’s sideline assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, which he was in 2009.

Today, though, the 41-year-old Veach is the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, who, of course, are facing the 49ers in the Super Bowl this evening.

Brett Veach (right) hugs Andy Reid. Courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Just a decade ago, I talked to Veach about his fairly low-level staff job with the Eagles. Clearly, though, Veach was trying to soak up as much knowledge as he could.

“Some of these coaches have been in the league a long time,” Veach said in ‘09. “There’s just so much experience, there’s just so much talent on this coaching staff. It’s been a tremendous opportunity.

“They’re not just good coaches, they’re really good people, too. You learn a lot both on and off the field from these guys. It’s not just x’s and o’s.”

Gone but not forgotten

There’s a certain irony that I started this column writing about the DSBA’s Buddy Hurlock Unsung Hero award winner.

Buddy, you may remember, was a former Delaware sportswriter — including for the State News — who died much too young.

This week, many of us are remembering another former DSN sportswriter who died way too soon.

Drew Ostroski passed away last Saturday. He was just 52.

Drew started out with us in the sports department in 1992. He held other positions at the DSN before spending the last couple decades with Delaware Today magazine.

A proud Cape Henlopen High grad, Drew played soccer and baseball for the Vikings. He covered high school and Delaware State athletics when he was writing sports for us.

Like anybody who knew Drew, I have plenty of good memories of the times we spent together.

I’ll never forget driving through the Virginia mountains to get to a Delaware football playoff game at Marshall in a full-fledged blizzard. With basically only two tire tracks of highway to work with, we figured they might not find us until the spring if we tried to pull over.

But for a more-complete view of Drew, the journalist, you should readAndy West’s column, which also appears in today’s edition.