Legacy Stories

Stanley Wilson Jr.

Stanley Wilson Jr. was a student leader, track star, and standout football player at Stanford University who went on to play in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions. After retiring from the NFL, Stanley struggled with mental illness and substance dependence. Stanley passed away in February 2023 at the age of 40. His family donated his brain to the UNITE Brain Bank, where researchers diagnosed him with CTE. Below, Stanley’s loving family shares his Legacy Story.

Stanley Wilson twoup Concussion Legacy Foundation

Stanley Tobias Wilson Jr. was a compassionate, talented, and courageous man who died Feb. 1, 2023, at the age of 40. He was the blessed, beloved, and only child born from the union of Stanley Tobias Wilson Sr., and Dr. D. Pulane Lucas. Stanley was born on November 5, 1982, in Oklahoma City, about 20 miles from where his father played football at the University of Oklahoma. Stanley later lived with his parents in Cincinnati, where his father was a star NFL running back with the Bengals. Stanley would eventually move to Oakland, Calif. with his mother.

Stanley lived in the Bay Area while his mother completed her undergraduate degree. When she decided to relocate to New England to further her education, Stanley’s paternal grandparents, Henry and Beverly Wilson, became his loving and legal guardians in Carson, Calif. This move allowed Stanley to remain close to his father, relatives, and numerous friends while attending Frederick K.C. Price Christian School. At Price, at the age of 13 in the 9th grade, he was introduced to football, and he began to thrive as an athlete.

Growing up, Stanley also spent time in Boston with his mother, who was studying at Harvard University. He enjoyed serving as a ball boy for the Harvard University basketball team, attending classes with his mother, and walking around the university and Harvard Square. But a brutal winter, combined with a longing for athletic opportunities and the entertainment and holidays at his grandparents’ home led him back to Carson in the custody of his grandparents.

Upon his return, Stanley enrolled in Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, where he became a standout football player as a safety and member of the track team. He also performed in theater productions, served as a calculus tutor, and was crowned homecoming king.

Stanford University recruited Stanley to play defensive back for their football team from 2001-2004. As a senior, he recorded career highs for both tackles and pass breakups, earning an honorable mention on the All-Pac-10 team. Stanley also proved to be a dominant sprinter on the Cardinal track team, posting some of the school’s best results in 100 and 200-meter events. His 100-meter time of 10.46 is still the fourth-fastest all-time by a Stanford athlete.

Stanley Wilson Stanford Concussion Legacy Foundation

Stanley’s peers elected him to be a senator in Stanford’s Associated Student Body. He pledged Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (Alpha Mu Chapter) and served as vice president (2003-2004). Stanley became a mentor in the Children’s Visitation Program, where he focused on inspiring youth with incarcerated parents to become positive assets in society. In 2005, Stanley graduated with a B.A. in Urban Studies.

The Detroit Lions drafted Stanley in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He focused on becoming a premier football player and second-generation NFL player. In 32 NFL games, Stanley Jr. racked up 86 tackles, eight pass deflections, and one forced fumble. In 2007, he was placed on injured reserve due to a knee injury, then re-signed to a one-year deal. Unfortunately, he tore his Achilles tendon during an exhibition game against the New York Giants, ending his career in the NFL.

Regardless of his situation, Stanley made time to volunteer and help those in need. From 2005-07, he was a motivational speaker, inspiring high school students to focus on education, health, fitness, and achieving their goals.

Stanley cherished spending time with family and friends, driving, reading, conducting research, and listening to music. He traveled the world, to places like the Caribbean, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Israel, and Egypt. He was an avid learner with a brilliant mind. He knew a quality education, real-world experiences, and a network of friends and mentors were critical for him as he transitioned into a successful post-NFL career.

Stanley Wilson Lions Concussion Legacy Foundation

In 2008, Stanley completed a certificate at the Aresty Institute of Executive Education and the Wharton Sports Business Initiative’s Business Management and Entrepreneurship Program. The Wharton program at the University of Pennsylvania was sponsored by the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

In 2009, Stanley completed The NFL Player Development Program: High Growth Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University. The same year, he enrolled in the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing in New York City. He earned his nursing degree in 2014. After graduation, Stanley worked in the healthcare field in New York and later relocated to Portland, Oregon. He eventually returned to Carson to live with his grandmother.

Throughout his life, Stanley was a team player who cherished his friendships and valued his relationships with teammates and fraternity brothers. He courageously accepted new challenges with a strong faith in God and love of family. Stanley greeted each new day resilient with hope, optimism, purpose, and drive. He never stopped longing for the life that he knew he deserved.

Yet, over time, Stanley’s behavior reflected the signs of his struggles with the trauma of same gender childhood sexual abuse, mental illness, drug addiction, and indications of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that links brain degeneration to repeated hits to the head. Having been deemed incompetent to stand trial, Stanley spent the final months of his life in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). He died under suspicious circumstances.

Stanley Wilson Jr.’s family would like to thank the Detroit Lions, Stanford University, Bishop Montgomery High School, Frederick K.C. Price Christian School, and many of Stanley’s friends and teammates who have shared their condolences, kind words, and memories.


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