GREENSBORO — Wilfred Billingsley is leaving town and going home this week, which sounds like it should alarm the N.C. A&T football team. No worries. He’ll be back here soon enough.
Billingsley has a habit of showing up where he’s needed.
The junior strong safety, who spent most of his youth shuttling between family homes in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Ind., figures to have 50 to 70 friends and family in the stands of the RCA Dome today when the Aggies (1-3) face Tennessee State (1-3) in the Circle City Classic. Officially a graduate of Southeast Guilford High School, he played his prep football in Fort Wayne, taking care of his grandparents while mom, dad and younger siblings moved to Greensboro.
One of these days, he’ll get settled. Somewhere.
“I don’t know where the Lord is going to send him,” said his grandmother, Eunice Lapsley.
The various transfers within the Hoosier State began when the player’s father, Wilfred Billingsley Sr., rose through management positions in his company that took him from Fort Wayne to Indy. The big shift came during the oldest child’s sophomore year at Snider High School, when dad accepted a transfer to the Triad. Wilfred Billingsley Jr. stayed behind.
“My grandparents needed help, and I felt it was the right choice for me to help them out,” he said.
Offie and Eunice Lapsley couldn’t comfortably handle the daily chores of home ownership by themselves. Furthermore, Snider was a prep football powerhouse with alumni including Rod Woodson, the defensive back who was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team in 1994, his eighth year in the league.
“To him, it was enjoyable,” Eunice Lapsley said. “He was always willing to help. ‘Grandma, can I help you?’ It was a pleasure having him here with us.”
After his high school football days ended, Billingsley lacked a firm college offer, and he elected to rejoin the rest of the family here. His father had accepted a job with the Dana Corporation, and the younger Billingsley had become reasonably familiar with A&T.
“I had a great time at Southeast, but my grandparents (had) needed me more,” he said.
Billingsley’s first preseason with the Aggies was disrupted when Offie Lapsley suffered a stroke on Aug. 1, 2003 from which he never fully recovered. Billingsley shuttled from Greensboro to Fort Wayne frequently until his grandfather’s death in January of this year.
The player’s position on the field has also been subject to change, albeit it less dramatic than the personal version. He arrived as a free safety, lining up 10 to 15 yards off wide receivers. The move to strong safety frequently aligns him three to four yards from much bigger guys.
“Taking on fullbacks and pulling linemen now,” he said. “It all happens right there at strong safety. This summer, I bulked up about 10 pounds, so I should be all right.”
The transition has gone reasonably well, as the Aggies have improved against the pass entering the game with the unpredictable, offensively diverse Tigers.
The Circle City Classic historically draws 55,000 or more fans, many of whom have no particular association with either team. But Billingsley knows at least a few dozen who will be on his side.
“I’m thankful,” he said.
Contact Rob Daniels at
373-7028 or rdaniels@
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