83 Degreez: Wilcox the World Traveler

What's up to all the Ravens and Daniel Wilcox fans out there. I'm back with another 83 Degreez blog, and this one is really long, so I'll split it into sections for you. I've been busy, traveling to Atlanta to see my son, I've been hanging out with my father a little bit, went to Belize and even got to see the Appalachian State National Championship ring presentation. Time With My Son

I'll go back to early March, when I went down to Atlanta to spend some time with my son. It went great. I wish I could have him 24 hours a day, but circumstances aren't like that right now. I'm not blessed to be able spend all the time I want with him, but I am blessed with a beautiful child, where I can be the best father I can be to him. I am having a good time watching him grow up. Sometimes, he's a baby about things. I mean, he's 2 years old. But other times I'll look over and he's roughhousing with you, or try to have a conversation. I've played a song in my car, and he's rapped part of it out of the blue. He's beginning to ask questions like, "Daddy, why are the trees green?" or "Why is the sky blue?" That is so funny to me.

We went to the Aquarium in Atlanta, which has about five levels with so much to do. I was really impressed. It's not just about looking at fish and everything; I thought it was pretty educational, too, so I would advise anyone down in Atlanta to catch that.

Time With My Father

Then it was the guys' time to get away. I hadn't met my father until I was 17, and there hasn't been a good chance to get away on a bonding trip with him, not to mention with my two brothers. He gave me a shout and said he wanted to get together. My one brother lives in Peoria, Ill. as an engineer for Caterpillar, and the youngest one is a senior at Morehouse College. My dad lives in Atlanta and is in real estate. The reason I'm telling you this is to show how we've all got responsibilities in life that keep us busy, so it's been tough to coordinate something around each other - except for last year when my middle brother got married.

Anyway, we were looking to do something cost efficient for all of us. With my little brother in college, we all know how money is tight at that time in our lives. My dad found this little spot called Flat Creek Lodge in Swainsboro, Ga. Honestly, this is country, country, country. You pull into this place with three or four huge ponds that are stocked, and they even cultivate their hunting grounds with all sorts of animals.

Basically, everything for us was included in the rooms, which were furnished with big beds, nice TVs, and a big back patio that we could fish from. They brought rods, bait and tackle for us, and we'd just cast out into the water off the back deck. We went ahead and made it a competition because we were catching so many fish. I had to have hauled in 15 fish the second day. It was back to back to back to back.

One thing I've never done before was skeet shooting, so that was an original experience. You just have the shells launched out into the air and you have to follow it closely before pulling that trigger. I have to say, it was pretty fun.

We also got to take care of ourselves. They had hot tubs, saunas, mineral wraps, massages… you name it. Even though it was in the middle of nowhere, we weren't always roughing it.

Time at the Bee

After we finished with the mini-vacation in Georgia, I went back to Atlanta to spend a few more days with my knucklehead son before coming to Baltimore for the third-annual Baltimore Bee. I can't believe how much it has grown since we started this thing with my foundation, Empowerment M.I.N.D.S., and Educate Online.

This year, we held the event at Towson University, and they really took care of us. There was a reception in a wonderful banquet hall. We had our winner from 2007, David Brokaw, there. He got a big ovation from everyone even though he didn't make it to the Bee this year. It was fun to see the proud smiles on all the students' faces as they accepted their certificates for winning the competition at their local school. I also gave my partner, Raquel Whiting of Education Online, an award for all her hard work. She has single-handedly helped me put together nearly every event in the past few years, and I couldn't have done what I have in the community without her.

The next day, I had some of my teammates show up at the event. The fact that Derrick Martin, Edgar Jones, David Pittman and Ronnie Prude showed up meant that they not only supported the kids, but they also were there to support me and my foundation. I can't thank them enough.

It was really a special program this year. The first year we did it, there were only 30 kids. Last year, there were 50. This year, we had 70 participants, which goes to show the excitement in Baltimore for the Bee. Our winner was named Emily, an eighth grader at Hereford Middle School. Congratulations to her, because I could feel how disappointed all the kids were when they didn't get a word right. It's amazing how much emotion and dedication these students put into learning. I commend them all for their fight and passion for the chance to win.

Now, Emily will represent Baltimore at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May, so good luck to her. We'll she how she does.

Time in Belize

Then it was time to head to Belize, where my fiancé is from. I had only met part of her family, so this was the big trip for me to meet everyone else before the wedding. It wasn't really that nerve-wracking for me, I guess because I'm always just myself around other people. Of course, I did want them to like me, but I didn't feel like I needed to impress them or change or anything. It was a two-way thing: I wanted to get to know them and I wanted them to get to know me. I have to say that her family left a great impression on me.

Belize is an absolutely beautiful place. Remember, it's a third-world country, but parts of it are so nice. There is a lot of undeveloped land, which can lend itself to some of the beauty. I got a chance to go snorkeling for the first time, which was an unbelievable experience, considering the country has one of the longest barrier reefs in the world. Let me tell you, we were going to get in the water, and the first place this guy took us was called "Shark Ray Alley." I'm serious.

When we get there, of course with my fiancé being from Belize, she has no problem jumping in the water with the sharks and stingrays that were no doubt around the boat. I wanted to have no part of that. If there's one thing I don't want to do, it's get in the water where everything moves faster than me. I will lose nine times out of 10 in the water with sharks and stingrays.

But, I couldn't allow her to just get in without some protection (me) should something go down. Now, I get in and the first thing I see are two 6-foot sharks right next to me. It was crazy. They were passing all around me. I found out that the nurse sharks and stingrays are not dangerous to the divers that come to this spot, but you never know, right?

An interesting note was that we were so far out in the ocean that you couldn't see any land for miles, but the water was only 6-10 feet deep where we parked. You could see grass at the bottom of the clear ocean from the boat. It looked like someone's lawn! I feel like I swam all over this area and saw some incredible things: the colorful reef, sea turtles, more rays, all sorts of fish.

It was one of the more amazing experiences I've ever had. I'd never been snorkeling in my life, and I probably never would if I didn't get engaged.

Time at Appalachian State

After returning from overseas, I made it up to Boone, N.C. for the ring presentation for the App State football team. This was the third year in a row the team has won the Division I-AA (now called Football Championship Subdivision) title.

This year, I didn't have to speak, so I got to sit and really enjoy it. Mr. Rick Beasley at App has been kind enough to invite me every year, and I'm proud to still be involved with Mountaineers football because if someone reaches out to you, I think that means more than if I tried to contact them and beg for tickets or things like that.

At the ceremony, they had some incredible highlight films, including the Michigan upset earlier in the year, and there were some talented keynote speakers that addressed the team. I was impressed with the backup quarterback, Trey Elder, and defensive back Jerome Touchstone, both seniors. They did an excellent job speaking, and I have to take my hat of to them - flat out. I really am glad I went to the same college as both of those gentlemen.

Eventually, they brought up coach Jerry Moore. He saw me in the hallways before his speech, and I was surprised that he told the crowd that I was exactly what this university represents and how impressed he was with what I had become.

He told a story about when I was at App and transferred from Georgia Military. Now, when I left Georgia Military, there was a mix-up with the amount of hours I had to be eligible. All I needed was a few hours, and I took a class. But, right before the first game, they told me I was ineligible to play. I was so heated after working my tail off for so long. Coach Moore was angry at that time, as was Dale Jones, then the Georgia Military coach who is now at App. Anyway, they were doing everything they could to get me on the field, but I went to coach Moore and told him I would make that the best offseason of my life. I would get faster and stronger and come back ready to tear the league up. He said I showed the rest of the team what a leader should be. I was really flattered when he shared that story. To me, it was one of the best compliments I've ever received.

About the rings, we all know about the huge Michigan upset that shocked everyone but me. Well, they put that score on the side of the ring. I thought it was kind of hot. I mean, they knew at that moment the Mountaineers were going to win another National Championship. That game meant so much to them, they put it on the side of the ring instead of the actual title game.

Time at the Facility

I'm back in Baltimore at this point. The entire weight room has been revamped, and we're getting after the offseason conditioning pretty hard. The new strength coaches have done a great job at motivating us and getting the team to work. Sometimes, it can be a lot to handle, but I know one thing: we're going to come back a lot faster and a lot stronger. We're going to be a better team because of it. We have a lot of guys back that are here because they really believe in what's happening at the facility. That's a good thing, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

To wrap up, I do want to congratulate my good friend and teammate Quinn Sypniewski on becoming a new father to a beautiful daughter named Kiera, who was born March 18. I think he and his wife, Mia, are going to be excellent parents. That's one lucky little girl.

Thanks to all the fans out there in Baltimore keeping up with the 83 Degreez blog. This has been a long post, so I appreciate you making it to the end. I'll talk to you soon in the offseason. We have a lot of fun events coming up, like the paintball tournament and Putt-Putt day, so stay tuned for that.

God bless,
- D. Wilcox #83

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