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Belhaven welcomes Packer’s Wilson

C.J. Wilson, (center), sits with his parents, Doris Ann and Amos, at the John A. Wilkinson Community Center on Wednesday night during a celebration organized by the Belhaven community. (WDN Photo/Edwin Modlin II)

BELHAVEN — It was a packed house at the John A. Wilkinson Community Center on Wednesday night as friends and family welcomed  C.J. Wilson home after he completed his rookie season with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

Less than a month before returning home, Wilson, 23, was part of the Packers team that won Super Bowl XLV.

The celebration was as much for Wilson’s actions off the field as for his NFL career, town officials said.

“He’s a really good person and he comes from a really good family with good family values,” Mayor Adam O’Neal said. “And we think this is the least he, and the town, deserves, which is a celebration in his and his parents’ honor.”

“Other places can be a place you live in, but Belhaven is your home,” O’Neal told Wilson. “And when you’re in that three-point stance getting ready to make that tackle, you’re not there alone. The town of Belhaven is right there with you, and we’re behind you 100 percent.”

Before Wilson signed with the Packers, he was a standout student-athlete at Northside High School and East Carolina University.

John “Pooh” Woolard, athletics director at Northeast Elementary School and one of Wilson’s former coaches, said Wilson was always a happy child.

“Even the time when we were up by four points against Chocowinity and he threw the basketball and hit the ceiling,” Woolard said. “Chocowinity called a timeout. C.J. walked over to me, smiling, and said, ‘Coach, I hit the ceiling.’ I put my hands to my face and said, ‘Yes, C.J., I saw that.’

“But he reassured me, the coach, that we would win the game. And we did.”

Christine Davis, a retired principal of Northeast Elementary School, spoke about how proud she is of Wilson.

“C.J. made history with the Super Bowl, but I want you to know, C.J., that I made history as well. Because for the first time in my life, I watched an entire football game,” she said. “I won’t pretend that I knew everything that was going on, but I knew we were winning.”

Harold Robinson, ECU’s recruiting coach and former head football coach at Williamston High School, said although he coached the WHS Tigers against Wilson and Northside in high school, he knew early on that Wilson would be going to the next levels of football.

“As many of you know, C.J.’s a good person, and C.J. can sure talk,” he said with a laugh. “

“Every year, one million high-school seniors graduate,” Robinson said. “From that one million, less than 8,000 sign Division 1 scholarships. Out of the 8,000, less than 3,000 are evaluated by the National Football League. From the 3,000, less than 250 are invited to the combine in Indianapolis. Out of that 250, only 75 to 100 are drafted to the NFL.

“How many communities can say that not only did one of their sons make it to the NFL and play, but also made it to the highest level of play in the Super Bowl. Not only did he play in it, he won it.”

Wilson soaked in the praise and memories.

“This means a lot to me that they still support me,” Wilson said. “I personally know about 95 percent of the people here in this building, friends and family, and it just gives me the drive to move on and do even better next year.”

Wilson said he was disappointed about being drafted late and started to get worried during that process.

“My mother and father, and my friends and family, told me not to worry about it,” Wilson said. “They said that I’ll be OK because God has a plan for everyone and everything.”

Wilson said it was that plan that led him to Green Bay, and it was that plan that led him to a team that he could help take to the Super Bowl and win it.

“So, as you can see, everything worked out for the best,” he said.

Wilson offered advice for the 250 or so people at the event.

“Stand. Stand for what you believe in,” he said. “That’s what my grandmother used to tell me. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

“And dream all you want to dream. But if you’re not out there making it happen and working for it, then don’t expect it to happen. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to play football and play it on the next level. And I can’t thank each and every one of you enough.”

Wilson plans to take a stand for Belhaven.

Wilson said he is working with his agent to set up a program that will allow him to give back to the community, a community that gave to him as he grew up.