For Roman Wilson, Saturday’s matchup with Hawaii will be a homecoming of sorts.
The junior wide receiver hails from Honolulu and this weekend, he’ll become the first Wolverine from Hawaii to play against the Rainbow Warriors. It’s a moment Wilson didn’t see coming, but it’s one he’s looking forward to.
“I just feel so blessed,” Wilson said. “Growing up, I never expected to, first of all, be at Michigan and then be able to play my hometown. I just feel like it’s such a surreal moment and I’m just so honored.”
During Wilson’s freshman and sophomore year, the power five offers didn’t materialize. He mostly received interest from smaller west coast schools, and Hawaii was actually Wilson’s first offer.
But everything changed in the summer of 2019, when Wilson competed in Nike’s The Opening regional camp, winning the ‘Fastest Man’ race and clocking a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash.
“I just remember waking up the next day and Oregon called to offer me, Michigan was like the third or fourth school,” Wilson said. “After that, my recruitment just took off. I had most of the Pac-12 schools, some of the Big Ten schools. But Michigan really stood out just because of how well they treated me.”
The receiver signed his letter of intent with the Wolverines in December of 2019. The journey from Honolulu to Ann Arbor is a long one — 4,452 miles to be exact — but Wilson’s Michigan ties made it less far-fetched. His dad was born in Kalamazoo and his mom attended Western Michigan. For Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, it was a natural fit.
“I think it helped with the parents having the Midwest ties,” Harbaugh said. “But just a great guy all the way around. Great competitor and tough as nails.”
Wilson’s mom ran track at Western and passed those traits to her son. Wilson competed in track in high school, running a variety of sprint events, and his blazing speed allowed coaches to look past his smaller 6-foot stature and see his potential as a college wideout.
During fall camp, Wilson proclaimed he was the fastest player on the team and he made a strong case in the Wolverines’ season opener. Midway through the first quarter, Wilson took a screen pass 61 yards to the house — exploding down the right sideline and going virtually untouched to the end zone.
The speedster’s hot start on Saturday could be foreshadowing for a strong follow up to his sophomore campaign. Wilson hauled in 25 catches for 420 yards last season, the second most among Michigan receivers.
He should have plenty of chances to run against his hometown team this weekend. The Rainbow Warriors are in the midst of an abysmal season, suffering defeats by 53 and 32 point margins so far, and aren’t expected to put up much of a fight against the Wolverines. While this season has been one to forget, the program enjoyed a lot of success throughout Wilson’s childhood and is a continuous source of pride for football players growing up on the island.
“It means a whole lot,” Wilson said. “I know their head coach, Timmy Chang, was a big inspiration for a lot of people growing up. Colt Brennan, there were a couple of receivers that I knew and kind of watched throughout the years. I feel like when people go to their hometown and they live there, it means so much to their community. You look up and look at these role models in your life and realize you can be like them too.”
When Wilson takes the field on Saturday, he’ll have a unique connection to his opponent. He’ll come out as a starter for the Wolverines, a culmination of his personal journey from Hawaii to Michigan. But he’ll also have the chance to watch the Rainbow Warriors roster in action — many of whom grew up playing football in Hawaii like himself.
It’s a moment that Wilson described best: