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How Did Running Back Go From S. Side To Nebraska? By Following Mom's Lead

By Justin Breen | December 22, 2016 5:27am | Updated on December 27, 2016 11:24am
 Chicago's Mikale Wilbon is a sophomore at Nebraska.
Mikale Wilbon
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CHICAGO — Mikale Wilbon said the endless work ethic that carried him to one of the country's top football programs came from his mom, Kelly.

The Nebraska running back and De La Salle Institute graduate learned to never stop working from Kelly, who works 60 to 70 hours a week as a mental health tech at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

Mikale is the oldest of her five children, and while she's raising her four youngest kids in Avalon Park, she's also attending South Suburban College to earn an associates degree in nursing.

"She puts in a lot of hours every day," Wilbon said. "If she can do it, I know I can do it. That's my motivation."

Kelly Wilbon said Mikale has been a nonstop worker, especially on the football field, since he was a little boy. She said Wilbon, whose Cornhuskers face Tennessee in the Dec. 30 Music City Bowl, is in his "true element" when he's wearing a helmet and dodging defenses.

 De La Salle Institute grad Mikale Wilbon with his mom, Kelly, is a sophomore at Nebraska.
De La Salle Institute grad Mikale Wilbon with his mom, Kelly, is a sophomore at Nebraska.
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Mikale Wilbon (left); Nebraska Athletics

"It's just home for him," she said. "He loves to be 'that guy' on the field. He just loves it."

Wilbon's Twitter handle features part of the Bible passage James 4:10, which reads "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." He said he never takes for granted earning a full scholarship to Nebraska, coming from the South Side.

"I know that everybody doesn't make it out of the hood," said Wilbon, who noted he's had friends slain from gun violence. "I'm doing this for me, for my family but of course I want to show everybody where I'm from."

De La Salle head coach Mike Boehm, who was an assistant when Wilbon was averaging 200-plus rushing yards a game in high school, said Wilbon frequently comes back to the Bronzeville campus to talk to the players.

"To this day he comes back to school and keeps in contact with myself and other coaches," Boehm said. "He's a quality young man who will be an even greater husband and father down the road."

Wilbon said he visits the school to help the current Meteors.

"I don't have that much money, so my only way of giving back is to give them the knowledge of what I went through, how much hard work it takes," Wilbon said.

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