Home Features Doug Wilkinson: Grounded in the gospel and on the gridiron

Doug Wilkinson: Grounded in the gospel and on the gridiron

Doug Wilkinson, a junior studying business analytics, moved with his family from Utah to McCall, Idaho, at the age of 10. After making friends in elementary school, they convinced him to join the football team. It didn’t take long for Wilkinson to develop a deep love for the game.

“Once I hit my last year of Little League Football, I fell in love with it,” Wilkinson said.

Doug Wilkinson and his family at the University of Idaho.
Doug Wilkinson and his family at the University of Idaho. Photo credit: Doug Wilkinson

Wilkinson quickly excelled at the game which eventually led him to become a four-year varsity starter for McCall-Donnelly High School.

With the help of the coach, Lee Leslie, the team put together great seasons in Wilkinson’s junior and senior years, allowing him to be recruited to a top college football program.

As ready as Wilkinson was to start his college football career, he knew there was something that came first.

“I knew from day one that I was going to go on a mission,” Wilkinson said.

Three weeks after graduating high school, Wilkinson put playing football on hold to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Argentina.

Shortly after returning from his mission, Wilkinson talked with his old high school football coach about how realistic it would be for him to play college football. Wilkinson knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially after taking a break for two years, but he was prepared to put in the work to make his dream a reality.

Throughout this process, Wilkinson considered multiple schools when making his decision as to where to play. Among the colleges considered were: Dixie State University, Idaho State University and the University of Idaho.

Wilkinson ultimately chose to accept a preferred walk-on spot from the University of Idaho, a division one program in the Big Sky Conference.

“Some people have their colleges (picked) out from sophomore or junior year, but with me, being from a small school, I had to kind of get my foot in the door and then kind of push through,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson planned to redshirt his freshman season and compete for the starting linebacker spot his sophomore season.

After his freshman year, Wilkinson reevaluated his plans. Would he continue to play the sport that he loved at a level most people didn’t have the opportunity to, or would he hang up the cleats and start a new path?

Doug Wilkinson breaks a tackle while running the ball.
Doug Wilkinson breaks a tackle while running the ball. Photo credit: Doug Wilkinson

To complicate the decision further, Vandals Head Football Coach Paul Petrino met with Wilkinson to inform him that they were planning to move him to fullback the next season, where he would compete for the starting position.

“I like to make every big decision with the Lord involved,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson used prayer and the guidance of his parents heavily during his decision-making processes.

With the next season approaching fast, it was crunch time. Wilkinson knew that he had to make a decision on whether he was going to play or not.

After more prayer and consideration, Wilkinson received the answer that, even though he loved football, it wasn’t in the cards for him to keep playing.

“I accepted that answer, and it was probably the hardest decision of my life,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson proceeded to explore his different schooling options to further his college education, looking at schools like BYU, BYU-Idaho and Idaho State.

“I knew for a fact that if the Lord gave me the answer to not do football, I couldn’t go to a school where there was a football program,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson ultimately chose to come to BYU-I . He has no regrets.

“I can confidently say that I wouldn’t change a thing,” Wilkinson said.

With college football in his rearview mirror, Wilkinson now focuses on new goals while bringing his same energy and passion that he had brought to the gridiron.

“Doug is a very intentional person,” said Dillon Wilkinson, a sophomore studying exercise physiology. “He doesn’t do things halfway.”

Doug Wilkinson hopes to help as many people as he can during his time at BYU-I.

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