Wreh-Wilson blends intelligence, athleticism

UConn sophomore cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson has returned interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.
UConn sophomore cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson has returned interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.

Storrs UConn's Blidi Wreh-Wilson has finally discovered a way to balance the mental aspect playing cornerback with his instincts and physical ability.

It's a major reason why Wreh-Wilson has returned interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive weeks and a major reason why despite being only a sophomore he is quickly establishing himself as one of the best defensive backs in the Big East Conference.

"Sometimes you don't have to be the most talented person if you prepare well," Wreh-Wilson said Tuesday as the Huskies moved a day closer to Friday's nationally televised Big East opener at Rutgers (7:30 p.m., ESPN). "I feel I'm pretty talented, but I also think I'm talent-minded."

And here's the evidence:

"I haven't played that many games (14 starts) and sometimes people say that's not that much experience," said Wreh-Wilson, who was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. "But when I'm out there I feel like I'm older than I am (20), and sometimes I feel like I'm making reads I shouldn't be making at this level. Sometimes I look at film and think, 'I did know this was coming. What did I see there to tip me off to do that.'"

Pretty cerebral stuff, especially when you consider he played soccer until his senior year at General McLane High School in Edinboro, Pa. But the 6-foot, 191-pound Wreh-Wilson has always taken a philosophical approach to life, something he learned from his parents, Elliott and Lucinda, who were born and raised in Liberia.

Elliott Wreh-Wilson came to the United States to study, earning his undergraduate degree at Boston College and a doctorate in philosophy from Boston University. He now teaches at Edinboro University, so academics have always come first in the Wreh-Wilson home.

"When it comes to academics my dad does not play at all," Blidi said. "I had perfect attendance from kindergarten to 12th grade. I always thought I was kind of a loser for it ... but at the graduation ceremony I got a standing ovation because people were surprised that an athlete could have that much discipline."

When college recruiters began calling his senior year, Wreh-Wilson's parents gave him a simple missive: find a school and football program with a solid academic background.

"When we came (to UConn)," Wreh-Wilson said. "The school was great, the academics were great and (my dad) liked the New England aspect of it."

His parents are even learning a little about football, although during visits to campus Wreh-Wilson admitted his father is more interested in the books he keeps in his dorm room than the football posters adorning his walls.

And as for soccer those days are long gone.

"I lost it all," he joked. "I went home and kicked the ball around with my brother and he said, 'I can tell you're a football player.'"

c.banning@theday.com

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