Small-town guy, Dontae Wilson at home in middle of Georgia State D-line

Georgia State defensive tackle Dontae Wilson (52) in action against Army on Oct. 19, 2019 at Georgia State Stadium. (Photo by Todd Drexler/Georgia State Athletics)

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Georgia State defensive tackle Dontae Wilson (52) in action against Army on Oct. 19, 2019 at Georgia State Stadium. (Photo by Todd Drexler/Georgia State Athletics)

Dontae Wilson likes nothing better than spending time in the woods hunting deer or sitting on the lake with a tackle box for a day of fishing. His country roots and his love of family are two big reasons he is playing football at Georgia State.

Wilson was an all-state selection at Jefferson High School, in a small town about an hour northeast of Atlanta and about 20 miles from Athens. He originally decided to join a friend and attend Army, but Wilson changed his mind when he sat down and realized how far he would be from familiar surroundings.

New York seemed like a million miles away. Georgia State offered a chance to play FBS football right away and was close enough for family to attend games. Plus, he could sneak away for an occasional day in the deer stand.

“West Point is a phenomenal institution, but I just feel I’m from Jefferson, a small town,” Wilson said. “So just being able to stay home here, in Atlanta, it’s only an hour away, and I can keep close contact with my family. It was the right decision for me.”

Wilson, a 6-foot, 285-pound defensive tackle, came up big Saturday in Georgia State’s 28-21 win over Army. Asked to defend Army’s option attack – which featured an endless diet of fullback dives – Wilson was under siege all game by blockers from assorted angles. He wound up with a career-high 10 tackles, seven of them solo stops.

On Monday, coach Shawn Elliott handed out five game balls. One of them went to Wilson, his second of the season. The last one came after the surprising win over Tennessee.

“It made me feel really good because I originally committed to West Point,” Wilson said. “So, it was a special game to play and to get a game ball.”

This season, the junior has 28 tackles, three for loss, two sacks, one hurry and once forced fumble.

“Dontae has been a steady contributor since he’s been here,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “He’s just a guy that’s relentless, powerful and strong. He’s a stalwart of our defense. I gave him a game ball because he’s such a critical guy in there. It’s hard to pull him out of the game because he’s really the backbone of our defense.”

Wilson and his teammates will have a different challenge Saturday when the Panthers (5-2, 2-1) return to Sun Belt Conference play. Georgia State will host Troy (3-3, 1-1) at 7 p.m. at Georgia State Stadium. Georgia State has won three consecutive and needs one more victory to become eligible for a bowl game.

Unlike the time-crunching offense that Army brought to town last week, Troy features a spread attack and plays a similar style to Georgia State. The Trojans average 35 points and have nearly a 50-50 balance between passing and running. Troy quarterback Kaleb Barker has thrown for 1,670 yards and 16 touchdowns

“It’s going to be a challenge with their quarterback and receivers and skill play,” Elliott said. “We’ve been practicing against it for a long time. We’ll see if we can get back and turn our attention to more of a throwing game.”

Georgia State will be playing without linebacker Ed Curney and defensive end Terry Thomas, a pair of seniors who were injured last week. T.J. Arnold and redshirt freshmen Tre Moore and Zach Dixon will be asked to play significant roles.