The thought of playing Loyola, Fenwick and Bishop McNamara — a combined 16-2 through six weeks — would intimidate many players.
Not De La Salle running back Mikale Wilbon.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior is looking forward to the upgrade in competition that awaits the Meteors over the next three weeks.
“It’s a good challenge,” said Wilbon, a South Side resident. “It’s the toughest three weeks we’ve ever had. I’m just going to keep grinding, keep preparing, keep watching film. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Wilbon has had a lot of fun at the opponents’ expense this season in leading De La Salle to a 5-1 overall mark and perfect 2-0 in the Catholic League White. He’s rushed for 1,109 yards on just 87 carries — an eye-popping 12.7 yards-per-carry average — and scored 16 touchdowns.
A varsity starter since his sophomore year, Wilbon has totaled 3,605 yards and 41 touchdowns for the Meteors. Gaudy numbers for sure, made even more impressive considering Wilbon was limited to four games last season after tearing the meniscus in his left knee.
“I could have come back the final two weeks of last season but my mom (Kelly) told me to make sure I’m healthy for my senior year,” Wilbon said. “It was good advice. When I was down, my mom always told me to stay focused and keep my head up and that next season (this year) will be yours.”
Wilbon has been a running back ever since he started playing organized football for the Harvey Colts at age 7. It’s an experience he fondly recalls.
“Whoever the fastest kids were they put them at running back,” Wilbon said. “Me and another kid (Thornton grad Jamal Towns) were the two running backs. We blew every team out. It was fun. We were like a dynasty.”
Don’t let Wilbon’s size fool you. At 5-9, he has the ability to run around or over opposing defenders. The combination of speed and power caught the attention of multiple Division I colleges, including Arizona State, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Purdue. In the end, though, he thought Vanderbilt suited him best.
“A big factor for me was Vanderbilt’s academics,” said Wilbon, who plans to major in business. “They offer a great education. All the coaches are cool, and during my visit, the players, coaches and people on campus treated me like family. They made me feel welcome.”
With his future secure, Wilbon is concentrating solely on finishing the season strong. There are goals to be met, beginning with Friday’s showdown against undefeated Catholic League power Loyola. The Ramblers are coming off a 24-17 win over Mount Carmel.
“Of course we’re the underdogs and it would be a big upset if we won,” said Wilbon who rushed for 244 yards and two touchdowns Friday during the Meteors’ 38-16 win over St. Laurence. “I think we can hang with them. This game represents our De La Salle community. It’s big for us.
“We want to win it all, conference and state. I hate losing.”