Wheeling Park QB Wilkinson signs with Toledo

TOLEDO BOUND — Wheeling Park quarterback Cross Wilkinson signed his letter of intent to continue his academic and athletic careers at the University of Toledo. Wilkson is flanked by his mother, Debbie, and father, Jeff. Back row, from left, is brother, Cole; Wheeling Park football coach Chris Daugherty and athletics director Dwaine Rodgers. (Photo by Shawn Rine)

WHEELING — Several years of hard work and two of full-on recruitment came to an end Wednesday at Wheeling Park High School’s Performing Arts Center. That’s where Patriots quarterback Cross Wilkinson signed on the dotted line to lift off and continue his academic and athletic careers at Toledo University. Wilkinson and his family took advantage of the NCAA’s new early signing period.

”It’s a rush of emotions … I’ve got a little shaky feeling and I can’t believe it,” Wilkinson said. ”I have always dreamed of this day and I still can’t comprehend it.

”I don’t think it’s going to set in until I step foot on campus as a Rocket.”

The all-time leading passer in Wheeling Park history in terms of yards (6,477) and touchdowns (64), Wilkinson will have a chance to compete for the starting job immediately. The Rockets’ record-setting quarterback, Logan Woodside, is graduating.

Patriots coach Chris Daugherty believes Wilkinson did something that too many recruits don’t during the process — think about what kind of fit they will be at a particular school.

”I thought that was real important because people are calling all the time and you don’t slow down and say ‘do I really fit here?’ ” Daugherty said. ”He truly fits.

”A lot of our schemes are their schemes, just called a little bit different. He felt very comfortable when he watched film and had to do a chalk talk with them. He was like ‘man, that is what we do on Friday night.’ ”

What Wilkinson and the Patriots did a lot of on Friday nights, was win. He led them to the playoffs each of his three years as the starter, including winning the state championship in 2015.

”I built relationships with those guys that I will be able to have the rest of my life, and we always joke that we’re all going to live on the same street one day,” Wilkinson said with a laugh. ”It’s something memorable that I will never forget.

”I am very thankful to be in a program like this and a school with such opportunity on and off the field.”

When Wilkinson arrived on the scene for that state-championship season as a sophomore, there was already talk about his potential. In fact, one publication named him to a preseason all-state team before he had ever taken a varsity snap. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound 4.3 student took it all in stride, something he credits to his parents, Jeff and Debbie.

”It’s just about being you, being a good kid and being respectful,” Wilkinson said. ”It’s also the kind of personality I have, too … I am a laid-back, chill guy.

”My parents taught me to not listen to all that hype — rat poison is what we call it. That helped me to keep my head down, keep working and moving forward.”

Wilkinson’s list of accomplishments is long and illustrious. He’s a three-time all-state selection, is about to become a three-time member of the All-Valley team, is a two-time Big 22 Team member, three-time All-TRAC and All-OVAC, a two-time Nike Elite The Opening Camp regional invitee, a US Army All-American National Combine invitee and he will become a 2018 Blue-Grey All-American Bowl Game participant next month.

Daugherty has seen Wilkinson’s game rise consistently, but his attitude has never changed.

”He’s very humble and always has been. And it’s a true humble,” Daugherty said. ”There are some people that put on humble, but he doesn’t have to. That’s who he is.

”He has not let his head get away. You hate seeing a kid like that go, but it’s time. All good things come to an end.”