Isiah “Ike” Wilson IV, who recently was named offensive coordinator for the Horizon High football team, died Thursday, June 3, after a long battle with cancer.
There’s an old adage about how character is not defined in victory but rather adversity.
Battles are won and lost, but how that battle is fought speaks much about a person. Isiah Wilson IV — lovingly known as Ike — was a champion despite his long battle with cancer coming to an end last week.
Wilson — who had recently taken over as the first offensive coordinator in the new Horizon High football program — died Thursday, June 3, surrounded by family and friends at his home, said his wife, Amanda Wilson. The man who wore so many hats — he was a football coach, a father, a husband and a proud member of the Iota Phi Theta fraternity — was gone at age 40.
“He was a fun-loving jokester, for sure — always loved to laugh and kind of the life of the party, I would say,” Amanda Wilson said. “But a heart of gold, who wanted to give back and super caring of everyone around him.”
A LOVE OF THE GAME
When people say Ike Wilson loved football, they meant it.
As a kid, he was enthralled by the game, and it eventually led him to playing for the Gators at the University of Florida. What followed was years of coaching — including a stint as the defensive coordinator with the Orlando Rage, where he helped lead the team to multiple titles.
He then coached at a few different schools, including Lake Minneola, Celebration High and Lyman High. It was at Celebration where current Horizon High head football coach Dennis Thomas met Ike Wilson — forming a bond that’s lasted for seven years.
The meeting of the two was as if destiny was pulling strings. Ike Wilson had sent in a résumé that Thomas — the head coach at Celebration at the time — said he might have seen, but it was the fact that Ike Wilson kept running into a friend of his that sparked something. It had to be more than chance, Thomas said.
So, Thomas brought him on as defensive coordinator, and it paid off immediately. In their second year together, the school put up — statistically — one of the best defenses in the state. The reason for that success was twofold: Ike Wilson understood his players, and he put his heart and soul into his coaching.
“He just put so much work into it,” Thomas said. “You know, as a head coach, I sit there and watch a lot of film, and on Hudl, you can see how much film people watch, and a lot of times he’s beating me. I’m like, ‘Good Lord, how do you watch that much film?’ He was amazing — he did everything that you could ask for; he gave his everything into it.”
Thomas has many fond memories with his friend, whom he will remember always for his grit and guts.
Despite the last two years of great struggle, Ike Wilson never complained. Most folks didn’t realize he was sick, because he didn’t make a big deal of it, Thomas said. A moment burned into Thomas’ brain is among the last.
Even through the sickness and pain, and through the treatment, Ike Wilson was at practice this past spring trying to give his players his all — even if that meant doing it sitting down because of the toll his body had taken from his cancer. He even wrote plays while in the hospital, Thomas said.
“He passed away sometime Thursday night, so you have to understand (that) the week before, he is coaching,” Thomas said. “When you say you can’t do something, or you’re feeling iffy about something, that’s what I go to — that’s my fondest memory of him, (him) being that strong and being that tough.”
For Amanda Wilson, living as a coach’s wife is never easy — especially during the season when it gets intense — but seeing her husband do what he enjoyed really made it all worthwhile, she said.
“He was a fun-loving jokester, for sure — always loved to laugh and kind of the life of the party, I would say. But a heart of gold, who wanted to give back and super caring of everyone around him.”
— Amanda Wilson
“I loved seeing his passion and dedication to something that he loves and is passionate about,” Amanda Wilson said. “I definitely wouldn’t trade it, (and) as much as it’s painful going through it during the season, it makes me happy to see how much it brings him joy.”
In Wilson’s last few days, his family had a lot of visitors — including former players and coaches — and those talks put into a spotlight the accomplishments Ike Wilson made as a coach.
Every comment was a note of praise, thanking him for everything he had done for them, Amanda Wilson said.
“I think building up the players and bringing out the best in them was really what sparked his fire,” Amanda Wilson said. “From what I’m getting from most of the players that I’ve spoken with … that’s what they have remarked on.”
Although this is a tough time for his family — including daughter Amaiah Wilson, 12, and son Isiah Wilson V, 10 — and friends, people in the community continue to remember the man who changed their lives just by the simple act of giving them his time, effort and wisdom.
“I’m going to miss the dude,” Thomas said. “I think that’s what you feel most — not being able to have those conversations anymore, not even off the football field. I can definitely say he was one of my best friends.”