Football

Charlotte-area coach up for NFL’s High School Football Coach of the Year Award

Charlotte-area coach up for NFL’s High School Football Coach of the Year Award

Jupiter Wilson may as well consider himself one of the most high-impact coaches in all of high school football.

Every year, the 32 NFL franchises nominate a local high school football coach from their area for a chance to win the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award. This year, Jupiter, the coach at Hickory Ridge in Harrisburg, is the Panthers’ nominee.

The award is meant to recognize a coach’s character and integrity, leadership, dedication to the community, commitment to player health and safety and on-field success.

“This year’s 32 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year nominees represent the crucial role that high school football coaches play in positively shaping the character of players,” NFL Vice President of Philanthropy and Executive Director of the NFL Foundation, Alexia Gallagher, said in a release. “We are proud to honor these coaches who have provided exemplary mentorship to student-athletes both on and off the field.”

Wilson’s involvement at Hickory Ridge goes beyond football. The fourth-year coach is a physical education teacher, while also being the head coach of the girls’ basketball and track and field teams.

“It feels pretty good,” Wilson told The Observer about being nominated. “Just goes to show that the stuff I do on and off the field is getting noticed. The kids that I coach and teach have a profound impact on me being in this position, so kudos to them, kudos to the coaches I work with, and I guess, to a certain extent, you pat yourself on the back.”

The award winner is expected to be announced later this summer.

Wilson has been involved in football for most of his life. After a standout high school career as an offensive lineman at Hickory High in Chesapeake, Va., the 6-foot-3 Wilson took his talents to UNC, playing for four years under head coaches Carl Torbush and John Bunting — winning the Peach Bowl in 2001.

He said he credited his two head coaches, as well as former UNC strength coach and current ECU assistant athletic director Jeff Connors, with teaching him lessons on coaching and leadership.

“A lot of what I’ve learned about how to interact, how to coach,” Wilson said, “how to just deal with problem-solving individually and collectively with the team — pretty much all my foundation for that was formed while I was in college.”

Though he works in Cabarrus County, Wilson lives in Charlotte with his wife, Melanie, and his 7-year-old daughter, London.

“I told myself I wanted to have an impact on young people,” Wilson said. “And God has given me that ability through the sports I coach and teach, so I try not to take it for granted about why I do what I do, being in that position and having that opportunity. I’m just thankful and grateful.”

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