Kendrick Pollock was still just the offensive coordinator at Jacksonville’s Northside High School in the spring of 2015 when returning players informed the coaching staff of a transfer arriving from Florida.
“Some of the kids knew about him,” said Pollock, who was elevated to Northside’s head coach in 2016. “He’s from a military family, so he’d already been here through middle school. I asked the kids if he’d ever play a down of JV football and the kids told me, ‘No.’
“He stopped by and said he was coming in August and asked for a playbook. I told him we didn’t give out our playbook, he had to earn it. But I told him our (receiver) route tree. He wound up showing up before August 1st and knew all our routes. That impressed me.”
Pollock’s first impressions proved to be correct as Jireh Wilson quickly became a valuable contributor for the Monarchs as a sophomore. Wilson developed into an All-East Central 2-A Conference performer as a junior and attracted the attention of college recruiters.
East Carolina, which started to show interest in Wilson after his sophomore season, won the recruiting battle June 19 by securing a verbal commitment from the wide receiver-safety prospect. Wilson, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, was the last of six players who made pledges to the Pirates between June 15-19.
Campbell, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Old Dominion and Vanderbilt also offered scholarships to Wilson, who has been timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash and carries a 4.25 grade point average.
“At the end of his sophomore year, East Carolina came in looking at the upcoming class and we had another player (offensive lineman and Duke commit Maurice McIntyre) people were recruiting,” Pollock said. “I introduced them to Jireh and told them about him. They realized he was only 15 at the time, but could see his size and potential. They came back later this year and looked at the highlight film of his junior year. They were impressed when they saw him in person again.”
Wilson led Northside in receiving as a sophomore when he caught 23 passes for 290 yards and eight touchdowns. But as a junior his role expanded significantly on both sides of the ball. He grabbed 31 catches for 583 yards and seven touchdowns on offense, while making 41 tackles, a tackle for loss and eight interceptions as the Monarchs advanced to the state 2-AA championship game.
The Pirates, whose recruiting efforts were spearheaded by new receivers coach Keith Gaither, eventually extended a scholarship offer to Wilson in May.
“He really liked the family atmosphere at ECU,” Pollock said. “The coaches were honest and up front with him about everything. I think that really attracted him and his parents at how honest the coaches were with him. I think it shocked them and put things into perspective.”
Wilson, who also played for Northside’s state undefeated (30-0) state championship basketball team, is a big-play specialist on the football field, according to Pollock.
“He’s a big-play kid on either side of the ball,” he said. “I’ll give you two examples. When we were playing East Duplin in the Eastern finals, we had run for a couple of plays. He looked to the sidelines and said, ‘Coach, give me a chance.’ We threw the ball up on the next play, he out jumps the corner, falls down and catches the ball in the end zone to put us ahead.
“Then, when he was playing defense against Shelby in the state finals, he’s backpedaling and reading the quarterback’s eyes. The quarterback throws the ball across the field, but Jireh makes the play and picks the ball off in the end zone.
“He’s a guy who wants to win, whether he gets the ball or not. But somehow he’s always around the ball making plays to help us win.”
Pollock said Wilson could fill any number of needs for the Pirates. He could help out at receiver, safety or even outside linebacker at some point if he adds more size.
As further proof of Wilson’s versatility, Pollock said Vanderbilt had offered him to play safety, Campbell and Coastal Carolina as a wide receiver and Old Dominion as an athlete.
Wilson was the 13th player to make a commitment to ECU’s recruiting Class of 2018, which has now grown to 15.