Being under the radar is nothing new for FIU punter Stone Wilson.
He hails from tiny Nokomis, Florida, which boasts a population of 3,400 people. Wilson was a two-star recruit out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, before making his way to Miami.
In his time at FIU, he managed to etch his name in the Panther record books.
The 5-10, 185-pound specialist is among the Panthers’ all-time leaders in punting yards and set the program mark for punting yards (423), this season against the Miami Hurricanes.
Now, entering April’s NFL draft, Wilson is one of the top punting prospects in the nation.
He sat down with UDD to talk about being more than just a punter, his personality away from the field, and what drives him to make it to the next level.
Author’s note: As UDD’s FIU beat writer, I covered Wilson during the 2018 season.
EH: What was it like growing up in Southwest Florida?
Wilson: There’s really not much going on. I mean, if it’s the weekend, I’m probably at the beach or just hanging out on the boat with friends.
Maybe go to the mall, but that’s about it. This area, it’s really just an older, retirement community.
EH: So, what was the transition like going from Nokomis, Florida to Miami?
Wilson: When I first got to Miami, I didn’t really like it all that much. Because it was so different than what I was used to. This city really never sleeps.
You know, there’s always something to do whenever, 365 days a year.
Coming from my hometown, doing nothing but the occasional house party every other weekend.
Whereas down in South Florida, you could go out on a Tuesday or Wednesday and it’s a packed club. So that definitely took some time to get used too. It wasn’t until halfway through my sophomore year before I started getting used to it.
EH: FIU isn’t the most widely known school nationally. For those who are just finding out about the school, how would you describe FIU as a university and a football program.
Wilson: When I say I’m from FIU, I immediately have to say, it’s down in Miami. Then people kind of get an idea.
But I can say without a doubt, this is one of the fastest growing programs and schools in the nation.
Just from when I came in, the budget, in terms of our facilities have improved so much.
The campus is beautiful. It’s Miami, for anyone who’s curious, just come and check it out.
That’s not even talking about our program, which it took a huge step last year, being able to get that bowl game victory which set a new record for wins in a year. I can’t wait to see what it’s like in another four years.
EH: Speaking of the bowl game. How was it to win the Bahamas Bowl and close out the season on a high note?
Wilson: It was just the icing on the cake.
We definitely should’ve won against FAU. Looking back at it, they weren’t that good. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, but they weren’t the team from the year before.
Marshall, we just, the next day when we went over all the film, we were just like, how did we let that get away.
But when it comes to the bowl game, it honestly was just the icing on the cake for our seniors and even our fifth-year guys, I can’t imagine what it felt like for them because they really came from the lowest of the low at the program.
It was heartwarming, knowing that we could end our four years with a win.
EH: Speaking of the Marshall game, how frustrating was it to have your first career blocked punt in your final home game as a Panther?
Wilson: It’s crazy. In pregame meal, one our running backs, Shawndarrius Phillips and I were talking, and I said to him that I’ve never had one blocked in my life.
First thing he said was, “oh your better knock on wood,” and I’m telling him that I don’t believe in that stuff.
Then, it happens. I was baffled, I couldn’t believe it because we just talked about it.
In pressure situations, I’ve always performed well. Backed up in my own endzone, needing to flip the field, I’ve never had an issue in those spots.
Worst thing about it, it felt like a perfect hit. But then you hear that second sound and then I turn around and the Marshall player was recovering the ball in the endzone.
EH: You’re one of the more athletic specialists in the nation. You have a passing TD on your resume, but you had a fourth-down conversion this year that was impressive. How was that?
Wilson: That play was wild.
For some reason my snapper (Tommy Zozus) could not hear me at all. I’m looking at the clock, it’s running down, it’s getting like three, two, and I’m like screaming out the cadence and he still doesn’t snap it. And I look up at the clock, it’s actually at zero and I’m still looking at a clock and then he snaps it.
Once I had the ball, I knew there was no way I’d be able to get it down, because my man Jose (Borregales) was already coming at me.
You know, obviously we’ve run through like a fire call before, in practice. Everything worked out perfectly there.
But now I’ve got the ball and Jose throws a block on an All-Conference linebacker (Josiah Tauaefa), which was huge, because I probably would’ve gotten smacked.
Then, I just hit the sideline as fast as I could and the next thing I know, I got nailed by three guys out of bounds.
Jose jumps in trying to defend me, I didn’t even realize I picked up the first down until I got back to the sidelines and everyone is hyping me up.
I was more ticked off than anything that they hit me late, but it is what it is.
EH: You have a strong leg as a punter, but Sean Young handled the kickoffs the past two years. Can you handle kickoff duties in the NFL?
Wilson: Definitely. I’ve been training for that ever since the season ended.
Like you know, I haven’t hit any in a game since my freshman year, but I would hit a few kickoffs like here and there, just messing around, when I didn’t have much else to do.
So you know, just a little slight work and we’ll get it all back. No problem.
EH: Who’s an NFL player who you model your game after?
Wilson: I got the opportunity to train with Pat O’Donnell at IMG today.
I really respect the way he carries himself and perfects his craft. Two other guys who I like are Pat McAfee and Thomas Morstead.
Because with Morstead, he’s super focused all the time and McAfee is known for having a big personality and he likes to have fun. I get that, because I like to have fun as well. So definitely a hybrid of those two guys.
EH: Who has been the biggest influence on your life so far and why?
Wilson: I’d say my dad. Because ever since I can remember, he’s been traveling all around for work.
He worked for Delta for a long time and then they closed his hanger down. Later, he gets rehired by Delta in Orlando and then he gets transferred up to Atlanta.
For 10 years, he’s been commuting for work, four days on, three days off.
So, the reason idolize him is because he’s very unselfish, he does what he needs to do to support his family and take care of us.
EH: What do you like to do get away from football?
Wilson: Well, since I live on the water, I’m typically on the boat, I’ll call up a couple of friends and we’ll go cruise to the sandbar, ride to the beach or the island, stuff like that.
If I’m just hanging out in my room, I’m playing some Rocket League or some Apex. And I’ll go to the beach and movies, just regular chill stuff.
EH: What do you listen to before a game?
Wilson: Rich The Kid. Famous Dex, Migos, Playboi Carti. I think the only like really well-known artist I listen to is Migos.
EH: Last one. If I’m an NFL GM or head coach or scout, why should I take a shot on Stone Wilson?
Wilson: Because I’m not going to let you down.