Just before 10:20 Wednesday morning, Albert Wilson, riding shotgun in a Toyota SUV, pulled into Chester A. Moore Elementary School.
A cheer erupted as if he was running out of Hard Rock Stadium’s tunnel.
But Wilson didn’t have his game-breaking speed.
A month after a hip injury that ended his breakout season, Wilson needed crutches to get around.
Still, he was the star of this day. There were hundreds lined up down the block to see him. Getting their Thanksgiving turkey was just an added bonus.
Wilson hasn’t forgotten his humble roots — born in Fort Pierce, raised by a foster family in nearby Port St. Lucie after both parents went to prison — and those roots definitely have not forgotten him.
He is more than a hero to the countless kids without a stable home. He is a symbol of what’s possible, and on Thanksgiving Eve, Wilson made sure to shake every hand, give every hug and take every picture asked of him.
“It’s great man,” Wilson said. “Every event that I have, so many kids show up, so many adults show up and come and show my love. People came that didn’t want a turkey. They just wanted to come show support. It’s a great feeling. It’s all love in this city.”
And it was a family affair. Both his mother and father, their time served, are now part of his life, and turned out to help with the giveaway. Aunts and uncles milled around the parking lot.
And Rose Bailey, Wilson’s foster mom, was there too. Wilson’s face lit up when he saw Bailey, and as is tradition, mussed up her hair.
“He’s humble and he’s genuine and he’s real,” said Bailey, who has welcomed more than 100 foster kids into her home, and has eight adopted children. “What you see is what you get with him. He’s never lost his roots. … Every time he’s in town, he comes to me. He’s still that same person.”
His superhuman speed is gone, for now.
Wilson suffered an ugly hip injury during the Dolphins’ loss to the Lions on Oct. 21, and while doctors believe (for now) that surgery is not needed, one look at his gait told the story:
He still has a long rehab road ahead of him.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Wilson said. “It’s going good. Day by day.”
Doctors, Wilson said, told him that “everything’s good,” but it’s clear that he won’t be running any gassers in the near future.
Which is unfortunate, because the Dolphins could sure use him, particularly with fellow speedster (and his good friend) Jakeem Grant also out for the season.
Wilson was on track for a career year before the injury, catching 26 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns.
How and when his 2018 ended was bitterly disappointing, Wilson acknowledged.
“I was having a great season,” he said. “I feel like I was just getting in the groove of things. God has a plan for me. It’s nothing I can’t overcome. Take it day by day and when I get back, I’m going to start running.”
Wilson added: “It feels like I’m letting [my teammates] down. I went through training camp, OTAs and they were depending on me. To not be out there, I’m kind of not doing my part. My brothers, my family, it’s a great receivers room. I feel like we’re one of the teams that overcome adversity. That’s what hit us. We’re just going to keep rolling.”
Wilson told Grant, who underwent Achilles tendon surgery Monday, that “we’re going to get through this together and when it comes, we’re going to hit the ground running.”
Expect both to be around team headquarters, both now and into the offseason, as they go through rehab.
So Wilson is still plugged into team news. And he’s pumped that Ryan Tannehill is finally back from the shoulder injury that kept him on the shelf the last five games.
“It’s great, man,” Wilson said. “He’s definitely the leader and the captain of our team, and to not have him for five weeks, it took a toll on us. Even though Brock [Osweiler] held it down and did exactly what he needed to do, just to have the No. 1 guy in there and back on the field, I believe it gives the team a lot of confidence.”