High School Sports

How social media helped a Hickory Ridge High football coach lose nearly 100 pounds

About a year ago, new Hickory Ridge High football coach Jupiter Wilson weighed 385 pounds. That was nearly 70 more than when he played offensive line at North Carolina from 1999 to 2003.

“I just wasn’t feeling good about myself,” Wilson said.

So he paid $500 to join a six-week, weight-loss challenge. If he lost 25 pounds, he would get his money back. He successfully did that, but before long, he was beginning to put the weight back on.

By last November, Wilson was in the 370s and was, again, looking for answers.

And that’s when he stumbled across a YouTube channel, Brix Fitness, that featured an once obese, unhappy new father who finally found a way, through new eating habits and exercise, to keep the weight off. Wilson noticed that the blogging created a challenge of sorts, and he decided to try something similar.

So Wilson would again start a weight-loss journey, but he would chronicle it on Twitter. That way, he figured, he would have to go to the gym and change his diet. He didn’t want to show up on video embarrassing himself.

Friday marked his 253rd consecutive day of posting his videos. Wilson is now 280 pounds, down 90 from when he started tweeting. Wilson’s goal is to get to 250, the point when he’ll allow himself to buy a new wardrobe.

“The whole journey has been a physical transformation, an emotional transformation, a mental, a spiritual [transformation],” said Wilson, 37. “It started with me saying, ‘You know what? I need to lose weight because it started to affect every aspect of my life.’ ”

Wilson has always been a big guy.

He was an All-American lineman in high school in Virginia. At North Carolina, he was a four-year letterman who won the Jack Sapp Award as the Tar Heels’ best all-around senior in 2003.

After college, Wilson had tryouts with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Bucs but didn’t make it. He gravitated toward teaching and coaching while playing a few years in the Arena League. Wilson landed a pair of assistant coaching jobs at Monroe High and at Vance before he left, in 2011, to become head coach at his alma mater, Hickory High School in Chesapeake, Va. He stayed there for seven seasons.

“I moved back and it was like the prodigal son coming back,” Wilson said. “But record-wise it didn’t go so well [he was 18-51]. My [athletics director] was like, ‘Jup, I know it’s been hard.’ That school had been in existence 20 years and had never made the playoffs. He said, ‘You can stay as long as you want.’ I felt like that’s why I needed to leave.”

Along the way, Wilson had become a licensed pastor, like his father, and became good friends with Sam Greiner, a devout Christian, whom Wilson met in the Arena League and helped bring to Vance.

Years later, when Greiner became the head coach at Hickory Ridge, he asked Wilson if he would like to come, too.

In June 2018, Wilson left Virginia and moved to Harrisburg with his wife and daughter. As he was really ramping up his weight-loss journey a few months after that, Wilson started tracking his calories on a fitness app.

One day, he and Greiner ate Chick-fil-A, Sonic and enjoyed a “splurge dinner” at Red Lobster. The damage?

“I added them up and it was 9,000 calories,” said Wilson, nothing that it was more than three times the daily amount recommend by the USDA. “I told Sam, I could see why I was gaining so much.”

Little did he know that just a few months later, in late May, Greiner would resign suddenly and he would be thrust into the head job.

“It was exciting but odd,” Wilson said of replacing Greiner. “My best friend decided to resign under difficult circumstances, and I have to make a decision. My plan was to be here another year and apply for a head job in Cabarrus County.”

So far, the transition — despite coming so late in the previous school year — has been smooth. Hickory Ridge athletics director Philip Furr marvels at how well Wilson kept the team together, kept the parents informed and how quickly he’s got everyone buying into his way of doing things.

“Jupiter’s a great guy,” Furr said. “He’s had great rapport with the kids and great rapport with the community. He’s been an inspiration for them. He’s really worked hard, not only in the classroom but on himself. He looks great.”

Wilson works out daily. He tries to eat 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day and to burn at least 500 per day through exercise. He attends fitness classes, including a military-style grueling outdoor class in Cabarrus County, and he works out at the gym. He doesn’t over-indulge anymore, though, he has found a carb-free ice cream at Publix that allows him to enjoy a guilty pleasure once or twice per week.

He also has had at least 50 people see his videos and ask for weight-loss advice, which he is happy to provide.

Through his journey, he has found a new Jupiter Wilson, a much smaller version, and he said that’s turned his life around.

“I have found a good balance,” he said, “and I post every day, which holds me accountable. That made my relationship with my wife better. It made my relationship with my daughter better.

“I feel better about myself. “