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After sending his highlight tape to 252 schools, senior safety Jaron Wilson was not expecting a call from Harvard defensive coordinator Scott Larkee during his senior year of high school to let him know that the Crimson were “going to take a shot” on him.
“They weren’t quite sure they wanted to take a chance on me, but thankfully they did,” said Wilson, whose second quarter interception helped turn the tide in Harvard fooball team’s 41-23 victory over Brown on Saturday night. “That call was unbelievable. The type of call that brings tears to your eyes and you know it’s going to be a life changer. And it has been.”
After the Crimson ended the first quarter down, 13-0, Wilson and his teammates remained calm on the sidelines as their coaches reminded them that it often takes exactly one play to change the course of a game.
And that is exactly what happened.
After Harvard rallied to score two touchdowns in the second quarter to take a tenuous 14-13 lead, Wilson found the end zone on a 51-yard interception return, bringing the Crimson up a full possession.
“That was an unbelievable play by Jaron,” senior linebacker Joshua Boyd said. “It was a big momentum shift. Jaron was in the position where he was supposed to be and he was doing his job. Once the ball was in his hands, he switched from defense to offense, and seeing all the guys out front blocking him, it was natural.”
As a returning starter, Wilson had been trying to do his part to get his team hyped up on the sidelines, but he recognizes there’s only so much talking one can do.
“I was on the sideline trying to get them motivated and excited, but there’s no greater motivation than leading by example and doing it on the field,” Wilson said. “We were able to switch from playing not-to-lose to actually playing to win and playing to be aggressive. There is no greater feeling for a defensive player than to find yourself in the end zone holding the ball and to actually be there myself was unbelievable.”
Boyd has seen his Wilson’s leadership develop in both his play and his comfort level in motivating younger players.
“With all the seniors, there’s sense of urgency with this being the final season,” Boyd said. “We’re the leaders of the team. Being a safety and defensive back, communication is key for the defense. Jaron’s always done a great job of being vocal and making sure everyone’s on the same page. He prides himself on being a hard hitter and it’s all coming together for him.”
Though Wilson scored his first collegiate touchdown last Saturday, but it wasn’t his first time in the end zone. The senior played receiver, quarterback and safety at Del Campo High School in California, where he also lettered in basketball and baseball.
He has taken much of what he learned as a high school point guard onto the football field.
“As a point guard, you have to be extremely vocal, calling out the plays as they come down court and taking charge of the offense as a whole,” Wilson said. “As a safety I’m the furthest one back on the defense. I’m the only one who can see absolutely everything. Being able to communicate what I see and what other people are supposed to do as well as what I’m doing all at once is something that I’ve implemented into my football career.”
Wilson is not the first successful athlete in his family—the senior’s father was formerly a cornerback at Air Force.
“I wanted nothing other than to be him from a young age,” said Wilson, whose family has traveled to multiple games every season. “As a little kid I was always into sports. Football was my dream. Playing collegiate football was my dream especially. Our positions are so similar so being able to pick his brain on certain techniques has been great.”
He might be far from home, but Wilson is determined to make the most of his final season playing for the Crimson.
“It’s been a life-changing experience to say the least,” Wilson said. “The education that I’m receiving just by being here is the best in the world. But the ability to play football on top of it is such a blessing. Football at Harvard is where football began. The game itself changed because of Harvard Stadium. I’m just super appreciative to be a part of it and trying to make the most of it in this last year.”
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