By Ben Johnson
TAHLEQUAH — Trent Wilkins was a hot commodity coming out of high school. The Duncan native was being recruited to play both football and baseball in college.
However, his decision to play Division I football at the University of Tulsa meant he wouldn’t be able to pursue his goal of playing two sports in college. Not because Tulsa wouldn’t let him, but because TU doesn’t have a baseball program.
“Out of high school, I was recruited to do both,” Wilkins said. “I chose football, obviously, at TU. And if they had had baseball, I would have tried to play up there, but they didn’t.”
So Wilkins went about his college football career, playing defensive back and starring on special teams for the Golden Hurricane. He played in 37 games and racked up 49 tackles — under two different coaches, Todd Graham and Bill Blankenship.
He also picked up a degree from the prestigious private school in northeast Oklahoma. But he still had some athletic eligibility left in college.
“College football was fun. Got to do a lot of cool things and go to some cool places, and playing on national TV is fun,” said Wilkins, whose two favorite memories of playing college football were intercepting a Landry Jones pass against Oklahoma and being a part of the Tulsa team that won at Notre Dame in 2010.
“I got a chance to get my degree (at Tulsa), and since I redshirted my first year, I had some eligibility left and decided I wanted to come play baseball.”
Thus, his career at Northeastern State was born.
Wilkins transferred to NSU in January of 2012. He went from playing in the Armed Forces Bowl one month to swinging an aluminum bat against Central Oklahoma in NSU’s season opener the month later.
“It’s kind of a neat story,” NSU baseball coach Travis Janssen said. “A guy that can play three years of football and basically hadn’t touched a baseball or a baseball bat, and then is athletic enough and skilled enough to come and make an impact for us last year.”
Once Wilkins arrived in Tahlequah, he didn’t miss a beat. He hit .327 with 30 runs batted in and four home runs. He also stole seven bases on nine attempts.
“I did decent,” Wilkins said of the 47 games he played in last season for the RiverHawks. “I’m just looking to improve upon that.”
With Wilkins coming in and not having played baseball since his senior year of high school, Janssen wasn’t to overly concerned about how Wilkins would perform.
“It was a situation where we had nothing to lose. It was a deal where we weren’t really counting on him,” Janssen said. “He could join the program, and we weren’t necessarily counting on him. He just came in and won a job and became an everyday player for us.”
The RiverHawks open their 2013 campaign today at home against Northwest Missouri State. And like 2012, Wilkins will be a major player in NSU’s success this season.
“He’ll be a factor in either center field or left field,” Janssen said. “We’re glad he’s a part of the team. He’s a steady guy and he has a good personality. He’s a good guy to have in the clubhouse.”