There have been Pro Bowl football stars, a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, two College Football Hall of Famers and nearly 20 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductees produced by Northwestern State Athletics.
But in the long history of sports at NSU, there’s never been a figure more universally beloved than Harris Ray Wilson Jr., affectionately known by family and friends since his elementary school days as “Coach Black.”
Since 1996, he’s been a constant presence around NSU Athletics, showing up early and leaving late to help Demon and Lady Demon teams, coaches and competitors. He’s unofficially known as the assistant head coach for all sports, and also has another nickname, “The Commissioner,” for his far-reaching influence and impact.
Saturday, he’ll be in the spotlight when he’s recognized on the field during the first quarter of NSU’s home opener against Lamar. Wilson, 40, is the first Exchange Bank Demon Great of the Game, with the brief ceremony set for the second timeout of the first quarter in the 6 p.m. contest between the Demons and Cardinals.
“Coach Black” was honored Aug. 29 as Natchitoches’ “Hometown Hero” for his action during a July fire that destroyed the home of his grandmother, where he lives. Black escaped the fire but when he realized his niece and mother were still inside, went back in to rouse them and get them out. All three escaped. The Modern Woodmen of America sponsored the event and committed to make a contribution honoring him to the Natchitoches Boys and Girls Club, selected by Coach Black as his favorite charity.
Black’s deep involvement with NSU Athletics extends off campus. He is also actively engaged with both local high schools, his alma mater Natchitoches Central and St. Mary’s, and is a beloved figure around state and Southland Conference athletic circles.
One indication of the broad admiration and love for Coach Black was the remarkable groundswell of support from all over for him after the fire. A GoFundMe.com account established to provide help for his family and support for Coach Black’s needs going forward generated over $25,000 in less than 48 hours, and ultimately resulted in almost $40,000 in contributions.
A Demon Great of the Game is spotlighted at each home football game. In its first four years, the Demon Great of the Game presented by Exchange Bank and Trust has honored 22 outstanding figures in the 109-year history of NSU athletics.
Exchange Bank and Trust has been a key supporter of NSU Athletics throughout its long history as the oldest financial institution in Natchitoches.