The NFL preseason is the best opportunity for fringe roster players to earn themselves a spot on a team, and one of those players who earned himself more opportunities Friday night is Green Bay Packers running back Emanuel Wilson.
Coming out of a Division II program in Fort Valley State in Georgia, Wilson was probably not known to most Packers fans before he took his first carry in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Wilson was inserted into the lineup late into the third quarter and finished the night with six carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
The 24-year-old running back made arguably the biggest play of the night in the fourth quarter when he cut outside for an 80-yard touchdown run.
.@1kEmanuelWilson showing off the speed ?
— NFL (@NFL) August 12, 2023
The NFL preseason features many of these inspiring moments where players come out of nowhere and begin to make a name for themselves. For Wilson though, this performance meant quite a bit more, revealing on his X account that Friday was also the 14-year anniversary of the passing of his father.
Today marks 14 years of the day my father was taken for me. Today is also my first NFL game and I?m blessed to have the opportunity to play on this day ? pic.twitter.com/URmWd5kIE9
— Gods Child???? (@1kEmanuelWilson) August 11, 2023
Wilson's teammate Aaron Jones found him on the sideline after his 80-yard touchdown and told him, "That's for your pops. He's right out here with you and he has the best seat in the house." Jones, who lost his father in April 2021, stated that the rest of his football career would be dedicated to his late father.
Following the game, Wilson told reporters of the role that his father's death played in his football career.
Emanuel Wilson lost his father, Manuel, 14 years ago. Today he played in his first NFL game (preseason) and scored 2 touchdowns. He says one of his last memories with his father was playing football in the yard and he still hears him saying ?smurf, keep working, keep going.? pic.twitter.com/VwdfzJgHId
— Bridget Condon (@BridgetCondon_) August 12, 2023
Wilson went unselected in the 2023 NFL Draft after a strong two college seasons with the Wildcats. Over 16 games, he rushed for 2,087 yards and 22 touchdowns while averaging an impressive 6.3 yards per carry. Even with a stockier build at 5-foot-10 and 229 pounds, Wilson was still able to show off his home-run speed during Friday night's preseason game.
While Wilson still has to compete for a spot on the Packers roster, his performance was a massive step in the right direction for his career and undoubtedly made his father proud.
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