Friday night will be one to remember for Michelle Barber. It’s one she’s hoped for over the last several years. The Rigby native moved back to her hometown in 2016 and while attending a Rigby High School football game, noticed something concerning: the quarterback was wearing the number 7.
The problem? Number 7 was supposed to be retired. It was Larry Wilson’s number in high school. Wilson went on to become a Hall of Fame NFL defensive back for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Barber remembers the first Larry Wilson Day back in 1967 when the number was retired. The Rigby football field was named in his honor too. Barber’s father was instrumental in making the two things happen and was promised that if the field ever moved, Wilson’s name would go with it.
Rigby High School moved from downtown to the west of town in the 1980s and with the move, the stadium got a new name, the Hyrum C. Blackburn stadium. The Post Register reports he was a local physician who donated money and time in the 1990s and the school board decided to honor him. They apparently forgot the agreement to keep Wilson’s name.
“Nobody thought it was important enough, I guess, to carry on that tradition and that legacy,” Barber said.
Barber created the Remembering Larry Wilson Committee and started to raise money for a monument. The 6-foot by 6-foot monument includes a relief of Wilson from a picture. It’s a profile picture and shows him holding his helmet and raising his arm, cheering his team. It also has a plaque detailing his accomplishments on and off the field: 8-time Pro Bowler, 6-time First-Team All-Pro, innovator of the “safety blitz” and most recently named to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.
Barber says Wilson returned to Rigby every summer and would help his friends and neighbors including outfitting the football team with equipment and uniforms one year. Barber says while living in St. Louis he often spoke to youth and encouraged them. Wilson died in 2020. He last returned to Rigby in 2012 and spoke to the students at the high school. Barber wasn’t there but her sister told her what happened.
“The students gave him a standing ovation when he got through and that tells me that he has a message for the youth, he has a message for the community and I hope we can help get that out there,” Barber said.
The committee has also raised money for a $1,000 scholarship to be awarded to a male and female senior at Rigby High School who demonstrates exceptional character. It’s Wilson’s character that Barber says was so important.
“He wasn’t just a great athlete, he was a great guy, a great man and he left a legacy that we can all follow and feel good about,” Barber said. “And I hope that that is a unifying factor for the community to have Larry’s name out there again.”
At the ceremony, Barber will speak as will Manny Hendrix from the University of Utah, where Wilson went to college, Larry Wilson, Jr., Leon Clark from the Jefferson County Board of Trustees and Kathryn Hitch, the regional director for Senator Mike Crapo. Governor Brad Little wrote a letter of dedication, which Superintendent Chad Martin will read before the monument is unveiled.
The city is also renaming the street where Wilson grew up to Larry Wilson Way. The high school will have a Larry Wilson Day during Homecoming Week as well.
“I’ve waited 30 plus years to see something come to fruition to honor Larry in a way that he should be honored … and I hope dad and Larry and Larry’s dad Whitey have a front-row seat tonight. I’m sure they will have and I hope they’re pleased,” Barber said.