Kai Wilson wants to make a living as a cartoonist.
Late at night, the 17-year-old practices his craft. He likes to create anime characters and football players. Many of those players are Wilson’s teammates at Corona del Mar High.
The players are always in action. Never does the senior have them sit down for a portrait. Wilson goes off memory, how the players looked on the field, and then he goes to work.
The results are pieces of art. Players hang them on their bedroom walls and lockers, or stick them in their school binders.
Some of the best drawings are of quarterback Cayman Carter scrambling. Another is of outside linebacker Alexi Molinari in a three-point stance, ready to rush the quarterback.
Wilson has drawn almost the entire team, except for himself. It might be time for Wilson to illustrate what he accomplished last week, when he rushed 16 times for a career-high 136 yards and one touchdown in the Sea Kings’ 51-14 win against Northwood.
“I’ve never actually thought about that, drawing myself,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t imagine what I would look like.”
A drawing of Wilson, CdM’s tailback, wouldn’t have looked too good last month.
Wilson said he felt depressed after he suffered the latest injury of many during his time with the Sea Kings. During the second game of the year, Wilson’s right Achilles didn’t feel right.
While on the ground, Wilson said he began to think, “Here we go again, another injury.”
He left the game against Western and missed the next two games, including the Battle of the Bay rivalry game against Newport Harbor, because of the Achilles tendon and ankle issues. Not being able to play hurt Wilson, who let out his frustrations on Twitter.
He shot off, “My ankle is really starting to [upset] me” on his “DaCadillac22" Twitter account.
“I never questioned myself about what I can handle. I questioned myself about how hard I could run,” said Wilson, whose knee, shoulder, hip, hamstring and ankle has slowed him down at different times during his four years playing for CdM.
“I just had to push through it and get over my depression and over it hurting, and do what I could to get better.”
Coach Scott Meyer allowed Wilson to rest, never bringing him back too early.
Each week, he thought Wilson might be ready to return. Each week he didn’t return, the Sea Kings lost.
While out two games, teammates, friends and family lifted Wilson’s spirits. Art also inspired him to come back strong.
One poem his sister Kamah Asha wrote hit him as hard he hits a hole. The poem’s title – “My Turn, My Time, My Miracle” – summed up how Wilson’s final year at CdM was supposed to play out.
“It said embrace your dreams,” Wilson said. “This is like my dream to play football and I have to embrace it, and just forget about all the troubles and all my injuries that I’ve had and just live for my dream and do what I was meant to do.”
With Wilson back, the Sea Kings’ backfield is potent.
They have a dual-threat senior quarterback in Carter, a shifty sophomore in Cole Martin, and Wilson, who can hit a home run any time he carries the ball.
The three went into Thursday’s game at Irvine with a combined 1,382 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. The team is running a lot more than it did during last season’s CIF Southern Section Southern Division title run.
Wilson is more than OK with that strategy. On the field, the aspiring cartoonist let’s the coaching staff draw up the plays.
Born: Jan. 17, 1995
Hometown: Gonzales, La.
Weight: 185 pounds
Coach: Scott Meyer
Favorite food: His mother’s jambalaya
Favorite movie: “Braveheart”
Favorite athletic moment: “Freshman football season, the Laguna Hills game [for the] league championship and coming [back] from a 24-7 deficit at halftime and pulling that one out.”
Week in review: Wilson rushed 16 times for a career-high 136 yards and one touchdown in CdM’s 51-14 win against Northwood in a Pacific Coast League game.