'Building' a bright future
When you wake up each day at 5 a.m. -- without an alarm -- to rise and undertake the first of multiple workouts, it is safe to say that you are a person with goals.
Southeast Missouri State fifth-year wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson is definitely a driven young man and he has immersed himself in the "process" of becoming successful on and off the football field.
"I want to do something that is going to help me do something for my family," Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson created a vision of wanting to build his mother (Michelle Vaulx) and grandmother (Beatrice Vaulx) homes and that dream will take money and knowledge to accomplish. With that in mind, he selected construction management and design as his major and will graduate in December.
"I don't really have a (construction) background," Wilkerson said. "I did research on it and the growth in the business is going up.
"I just stuck my neck out there and got in it."
The Memphis native is really "in it" this summer, as he spends a good portion of his day serving an internship with Robinson Construction in Perryville.
Wilkerson sees similarities between a construction project and his other life, which is being part of a winning football team. Both take time and a lot of work to successfully complete.
"You have to work all the way up to see the finished product," Wilkerson said. "It's a process."
His "process" begins each day with climbing out of bed and heading to a 6 a.m. run workout with his Redhawk teammates.
Following breakfast, Wilkerson heads to the Holcomb Success Center for weight training and then makes the 45-minute trek up to Perryville for the rest of the day.
He walked out of the business Wednesday at 5 p.m. and was on his way to "another workout" before dinner.
Saturday afternoons may be glamorous for Wilkerson and the nationally-ranked Southeast squad, but the "process" isn't.
"It's been a pleasure to watch him mature," Redhawk coach Tom Matukewicz said of Wilkerson. "He's got a phenomenal momma in Memphis and he's done a great job of trying to get better each and every year. Academically, he is stretching himself."
A guy in Wilkerson's shoes doesn't have to do the things that he is doing off the field.
He is a virtual lock to leave Southeast as the most productive wide receiver ever. With 34 more receptions, seven more touchdowns, and 354 more yards, he'll lead the Redhawks historically in each of those categories.
"He's a marquee player," Matukewicz said, "and most marquee players think that they are going to get drafted and go into the Hall of Fame. But he gets it and wants a back-up plan to go where he can have a wildly successful career down another path."
Michelle and Beatrice Vaulx "have worked so hard" for Wilkerson, who has remade himself physically in the weight room over the past five years, and he does allow himself to dream of the NFL so that he can care for them one day. And the fact that the Redhawks have had players chosen in the NFL Draft each of the past two seasons makes that goal somewhat realistic.
"I always put hard work first," Wilkerson said. "I really didn't know what would happen (at Southeast). I think about the NFL a lot, but what comes to my mind first is what I have to do to get there. What work do I have to put in? Am I doing enough?"
Wilkerson's mind operates like an engineer. It's fine to sit and daydream about a beautiful project in its completed splendor. However, the ones who can attain success always comprehend the path that needs followed to actually get there.
"Most guys would say 'I'm going into my senior year and I just have to focus on football,'" Matukewicz said. "But he is trying to challenge himself both (athletically and academically)."
Which is why "most guys" aren't like Kristian Wilkerson.