COLUMBUS, Ind. — Duwyce Wilson wants one more shot to jump up from the turf, thrust a thumb and two fingers in the air and remind his parents how much he loves them.
It's all Wilson has known, long before he enrolled at Indiana University and embarked on an often frustrating run the rangy receiver hopes won't be the end of his football career.
"They gave me my urge to play, my will," Wilson tells USA TODAY Sports, sitting between his parents on a couch at his mother's house. "They gave me everything I have right now to keep on playing and get a shot at the NFL."
Across the room, the youngest of Wilson's three sisters, Annette, relays his words in American Sign Language to Duwyce Sr. and Celestine Sanders, who answer with silent smiles and nods.
There was a time Wilson would have been embarrassed by this scene — the way even the simplest communication is complicated when you grow up in a household with deaf parents.
As he makes his long-shot push towards the NFL draft, though, Wilson believes his unique upbringing is the reason he can channel what he needs to have a chance.
"When he's out on the field and he does the 'I love you' sign,' " Duwyce Sr. says, with Annette interpreting, "it shows he's really thinking about his family and thinking about us."
Scenes from the NFL scouting combine in nearby Indianapolis flash on the TV screen in an adjacent room.
Wilson wasn't invited.
He was a breakout player as a redshirt freshman with the Hoosiers in 2010, before a knee injury, a coaching change and the rise of other talented players relegated him to a backup role.
"He never changed how hard he worked and never changed his attitude," Indiana offensive coordinator Kevin Johns says, "but those other guys just wouldn't let go of that starting position."
Wilson finished his college career with 87 receptions for 1,102 yards and seven touchdowns, just 35 of those catches and one TD coming over his final two seasons.
He has a classic outside receiver's frame at 6-3 and about 209 pounds, with a knack for high-pointing the football and long legs that can make his speed deceiving.
"A lot of people think I'm real slow," Wilson says with a shake of his head, adding that he believes he'll run the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds at Indiana's pro day March 26.
But reserve receivers aren't generally a hot commodity, particularly from a school such as Indiana, which has been to one bowl game in the past 20 years.
Wilson's teammate, Cody Latimer, has a chance to be the first Hoosiers receiver drafted since Tandon Doss in 2011. For Wilson, just an invite to rookie camp would be a victory.
"I want to see him in the NFL," Celestine Sanders says through Annette. "It doesn't really matter where. I just want to see him."
Wearing an Indiana golf shirt, Duwyce Sr. nods along. He and Celestine separated when Wilson was in middle school but still spend plenty of time together with their children.
Wilson's two oldest sisters from Duwyce Sr.'s previous relationship are deaf, too. Signing has been a way of life, no matter how much Wilson sometimes wished his parents could speak.
"I feel like it helps me catch better a little bit," Wilson says. "I transfer it over to the field."
It also has set up Wilson for a second career. In December, he completed his general studies degree with an emphasis on sign language interpreting. He already has spoken with the Indiana School of the Deaf about becoming a gym teacher or football coach there.
"It makes me very happy," Duwyce Sr. says. "We need more American Sign Language interpreters."
Duwyce Sr. knew about deaf fullback Derrick Coleman's Super Bowl journey with the Seattle Seahawks, but the story was harder for him to follow because Coleman doesn't sign — he uses hearing aids and reads lips.
In that way, Wilson's parents hope he can become another kind of ambassador for the deaf community. And Wilson speaks with conviction when asked about his odds: "I'm gonna make it."
He'll need to run well at his pro day. He'll need to show his confidence is back. He'll need to show something to make a team believe he's at least worth a look, beginning on special teams.
"Some guys prefer bigger, physical wide receivers, and I think Duwyce would fit that," Johns says. "He really plays with great effort and great pride and hunger."
Celestine has been on disability since a heart attack years ago. Duwyce Sr. works as a dishwasher at a pizza joint. Their silent world revolves around their children and grandchildren, whose names appear on the tattoo over Wilson's heart.
When he takes the field for his pro day, odds are Wilson will think about all of it — and perhaps throw up the "I love you" sign one more time, just for practice.
"If anything, it will give me more speed, more power, more mental awareness for everything I have to do in the process I'm going through," Wilson says. "I don't feel a weight on my back. I feel like I can take more stuff on at a time. I'm just ready to go."
Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @TomPelissero
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