George Wilson, like the rest of the Tennessee Titans, took to the field Saturday for the start of training camp at St. Thomas Sports Park in Nashville, Tennessee.
But Wilson, a 10-year NFL safety and a 2000 Paducah Tilghman and 2004 Arkansas alumnus, begins his second season with the Titans with a heavy heart as he deals with the death of his mentor, friend and grandfather, George H. Reeves Jr., 80, who passed away at his home Tuesday.
"Words cannot express the grief I feel in my heart with the loss of my grandfather," Wilson said. "God has truly blessed me with an amazing grandfather. George Reeves Jr. (Grand Daddy) was more than just a grandfather. He was my mentor, confidant, adviser and greatest supporter.
"Although it will be hard to walk onto the field knowing that he will not be in the stands or at home cheering me on, I know that his spirit will always be with me. If I had one more moment with him I would express to him again how grateful I am to have had him in my life. Grand Daddy played a major role in making me the man I am today. Thanks to his teachings, love and support I am living my dream. I feel honored and privileged to be a part of his legacy. Grand Daddy, I love you and will miss you greatly."
Reeves was an integral part of Wilson's community efforts for children and families in Paducah through his George Wilson Safety Foundation that include a Leadership Retreat, a "Boxes of Loves" Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas toy drive, a charity bowling event, and a football and cheerleading camp, and volunteered in many facets since the foundation's forming.
Wilson said that Reeves' commitment to service was unmatched and that during the 2013 toy drive Reeves drove around Paducah and collected 3,000-plus toys so underprivileged children could have a nice Christmas.
Wilson, in a Q&A published in the Sun on March 11, talked about how his ability to play football has allowed him to do the things he does for the Paducah community.
"I was having lunch with my grandparents at Starnes and we were talking about how the talent I have playing football has afforded me the opportunity to get an education, to put some money in my pocket, allowed me to live my dream, allowed me to see the world and allowed me to meet people I never would have thought I would be able to meet," Wilson said.
"It all came from having a dream of playing football. I never knew where the dream would take me, and it has taken me a lot of places and allowed me to meet a lot of people. I'm living a dream every day, whether it's on the field or off the field. When I wake up and my feet hit the floor, I tell God thank you for letting me live my dream and giving me the blessing to where I can bless other people. That's my mindset day in and day out. I know how privileged and how blessed I am and how much God has put favor on my life. For me to be able to live my dream is just a blessing."
With training camp starting, Wilson says the Titans have high hopes for the season after finishing 7-9, out of the playoffs and in second place in the AFC South.
"We definitely feel like we'll be in contention for the AFC South title," Wilson said. "That's our first goal: to win the division and get the automatic in into the playoffs. We know we're going to have our work cut out for us. Indy won the division and Houston has been a top team as well, so we as the Titans just have to bounce back and put our team back on the radar."
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.