A Sentinel On and Off the FieldApril 2, 2012 - Arena Football League (AFL) Tampa Bay Storm
Be quick on your feet, possess a sturdy set of hands, and have a sharp mind to react appropriately to your surroundings.
It's a set of attributes most commonly reserved for the football field, but even away from the gridiron, Wilson utilizes the same skills set to watch over a much more fragile demographic than professional quarterbacks.
When he is not playing football, Wilson dedicates his time to serving the community, specifically in a role as a mentor to troubled teenagers and youths living in foster care.
A native of Bradenton, Florida, Wilson routinely makes the 60-minute drive each day after practice back to his hometown in Manatee County, where works an eight-hour shift as a supervisor, spending time and doing activities with the residents of the Manatee Palms Group Home.
"It's been a great experience so far," Wilson said. "It's a tough situation these kids live in, and I was a little nervous at first, but once you sit down with them and get to know them, it's a real touching feeling."
Many of the residents who live at the home range from ages five all the way up to 17 years old. While the many of the individuals are identified as an "at-risk population," others are noted to have mental health or psychiatric disabilities.
As a supervisor at the facility, Wilson's primary responsibilities include overseeing staff, filing paperwork on residents who check in and out, and keeping the home's records up to date. He also enjoys participating in a number of activities with the kids, such as playing kickball, football and going swimming.
His professional experience at the home (Wilson has been there for approximately two years now) has even led him to facilitate in the training classes that each employee is required to pass before they're permitted to interact with the residents.
And that's only what Wilson does on the facility grounds.
"I like to get them outside of the home a little bit, too," he added. "I thought it would be fun to do something different for them that they enjoy, and it really worked out for the best."
Wilson organizes three group outings per week in which he and several of the kids participate in a variety of off-site adventures. In the past, the group has attended baseball games, the Florida State Fair, and recently even got the chance to see Wilson play in one of his own Storm football games. Wilson said he even has some more trips planned in the near future, most notably one to Universal Studios in Orlando.
"The kids love it," Wilson added. "They're always tugging on my arm or pulling on my shirt asking me when we're going on another outing. That's the kind of thing that makes me love my job."
Perhaps Wilson, who has two children of his own, knows better than anyone the significance of having a stable presence in one's life.
As a child growing up in Bradenton, Wilson grew up without a father, and was raised solely by his mother, Julia. The experience, although challenging, was one that has only benefitted Wilson in his current role. As a result, Wilson can relate first-hand to many of the same disadvantages the youths at the home are currently going through, allowing him to better connect with individuals and help them more thoroughly.
Now, Julius Wilson is no longer looking for a father figure.
He is one.
Arena Football League Stories from April 2, 2012
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- A Sentinel On and Off the Field - Tampa Bay Storm
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