COVINGTON -- Switching positions without notice did not seem to phase Gary Wilkins as the former Alcovy player was named to the SoCon All-Freshman team.
Wilkins started out playing a little bit here and there at middle linebacker for the Furman Paladins before an injury to a teammate changed everything forcing Wilkins to move to the weak side.
"It was kind of like I was playing two positions. Then when he (Wiley) got hurt I had to start off against Georgia Southern who was No. 1 in our conference (SoCon) and FCS. It was like being thrown to the fire. I thought I handled it well," Wilkins said.
In his first start at the new position against the No. 1 ranked Eagles, Wilkins made the fourth highest amount of tackles with a total of seven -- four solo and three assists.
The Georgia Southern game was such a physical game for him that he didn't think he had anymore to give the following week. But it was that next week when Wilkins really showed what he had to offer the Paladins for the next three years. Wilkins bounced back to help lead the defense in tackles with four solos and nine assists for a total of 13 tackles.
"I was just starting to get into the groove of things," Wilkins said.
In the first five games, Wilkins had a total of 13 tackles. After the Georgia Southern game when he started on the weak side, his numbers skyrocketed to 30 total tackles and he broke up a pass play against Florida in front of more than 84,000 people. Furman even led for part of the game outscoring Florida 22-7 at the end of the first quarter.
It was during the Florida game that Wilkins realized he made the right decision to attend Furman and that the FCS is not at a lower level of play like many think.
"I know in the BCS you have a lot of pure athletes. Then you come down to FCS and everyone thinks it's a step down. But playing in the Southern Conference is pretty much like playing in the BCS. We went tooth and nail with Florida. We were actually ahead of them," Wilkins said. "I really feel like this is where I should be."
Wilkins finished the season with 16 solo stops and 27 assists while blocking a punt, pressuring the quarterback once and breaking up a pass.
Aside from being named to the all-freshman team, Wilkins was also named Furman's Special Teams Player of the Week in their second week of the season against Citadel.
"That was one of the biggest honors I could get. I didn't know I was going to get picked," Wilkins said about being on the all-freshman team. "I felt pretty good for my first year. I'm just waiting for next year to put on some weight in the weight room. Then I plan on going for All-SoCon or All-American."