When Southern Miss takes the field for the annual Black and Gold Game on Saturday fans will notice plenty of changes under first year head coach Ellis Johnson. Many will notice the physical play of the offensive line, others will take note of a full back in the Southern Miss backfield, still others will notice the different base sets on defense. Maybe a few will notice Southern Miss red-shirt junior Deron Wilson.
Wilson is more polished, he's bigger and stronger and maybe a little faster, but the most noticeable difference is the number on his jersey. This year he'll be sporting No. 22 instead of the number 7 he wore last season.
"I changed my number to honor my friend Tyrone Duplesses," he said.
Duplesses a Louisana Tech running back who passed away this off season unexpectedly.
Wilson and Duplesses were team mates at O. Perry Walker (New Orleans, Lou.) High and close friends. After high school the two continued their careers at different schools but remained close.
"We played ball and ran track together," Wilson said. "I still talk to his dad every week."
Sophomore TE Collin Jarbo, was happy to give up the No. 22 jersey. This year Jarbo will wear No. 80, a more traditional number for his position.
Players change their numbers for all sorts of reasons, but reasons are as touching and heart felt as Wilson's desire to honor his childhood friend.