Tahlequah’s Coach Keith Wilson: “Spirit of Success” – Presented by Firstar Bank

From his early childhood days growing up in Muskogee, fast forward to the past seven years of coaching at THS, and it’s easy to see that coaching and teaching continues to create a Spirit of Success for Keith Wilson who shares his passion for making everyday better than the day before with players and coaches alike.

Wilson graduated from Muskogee High School in 1994 and played quarterback and defensive line for the Roughers.

“There was no such thing as “one-way” players back then,” chuckled Wilson. “It was a strange combination but it worked.”

After two years as a student at the University of Oklahoma, Wilson got his first start in coaching 23 years ago as a student assistant with the defensive line at Northeastern State University following his personal dreams of helping others find success. Other coaching stops include TCU and Colorado School of the Mines as well as his alma mater of Muskogee and Tahlequah.

Recalling those experiences, Wilson admits the influences for developing his coaching style are many. 

“My high school coaches Ron Freeman and Larry Heard were two that I looked up to as a player and wanted to be like them,” said Wilson. “I owe a lot to so many. Coach Tom Eckert gave me my first chance, bringing me in at NSU and teaching me about the importance of knowing the small stuff.  Passion and hard work effort I owe to Bobby Jefferson.”

College coaches shaping Wilson’s style include David Deets, Marty Heaton and Bob Stitt before Wilson found his current home in Tahlequah.

“Through his everyday life example, coach Brad Gilbert has taught me the right way to handle specific situations along with Matt Cloud on how to handle details that will result in positive results,” Wilson said with appreciation.

So how does the personable Tahlequah coach define success?

“The traditional thought is about winning and losing but to me I get more satisfaction seeing a kid who started as a 7-8th grader and seeing him develop not only as a football player but as a person who will contribute to society,” nodded Wilson. “There’s nothing more rewarding to me than having a young person come back after graduation and thanking you for everything you did to help them achieve their goals and dreams.”

For Wilson it’s about developing relationships through a daily focus in order to earn the kids trust and support.

“The way I played and was coached is 180 degrees different than the way you have to coach kids today,” Wilson said. “Back in the day, it was coach Freeman and coach Heard’s way or the highway and that worked just fine for me. Today’s athletes are a little different. There are so many different backgrounds these kids come from. You don’t always know what the kid had to go through the night before.”

“You really have to know your kids, on and off the field and know what to say and definitely what not to say. Today’s coach has to know when they’re struggling with something away from football, and you better identify it and get a hold of the circumstances. You have to know each player, what makes them go, what turns them off and you have to know this on a daily basis.”

Another big piece of Wilson’s heart that sparks his passion for making life better everyday includes a personal family commitment to his daughters, Kinsley and Harper.

“Absolutely, they’re something that keeps me going all day everyday,” Wilson voiced with conviction and emotion. “I’m still avoiding their question Daddy can I play football?  But spending time with them and seeing their smile and hearing them laugh is what makes my heart beat stronger everyday.”

Added altogether there’s no question that Keith Wilson continues to create opportunities for others through his belief in the importance of character counts and displaying a true Spirit of Success. 

Photo courtesy Byron Beers, Tahlequah Daily Press.