The energetic Thunderbird is back, and he’s ready to have a great year.
Max Wilson was rarely able to be at his best during his rookie NLL season. In his second year, he’s back at the pro level with more energy and confidence than ever before.
Wilson missed the first three games of the Thunderbirds’ 2022-23 NLL Season due to a devastating injury he sustained in the last training session of Fall Ball in 2021 while at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Wilson was finishing up a routine side-stepping drill when he completely tore his ACL – the injury also forced him to completely repair his lateral meniscus.
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. Not only was Wilson entering his final collegiate year that spring of 2022, but he was also drafted 12th overall in the 2021 NLL Entry Draft. You can only imagine what it must’ve been like to feel the highest of highs and then the lowest of lows in a short time. Wilson would get operated on in December of 2021, and that’s when the long road to recovery began.
“It was one of those injuries where it’s hard to believe at first because everything was going so right for you,” Wilson said. “Then, to have something like that happen when you haven’t even had a chance to prove yourself in the NLL yet, and you have all these expectations coming in as a first-round draft pick. It took a couple of weeks to hit me that this is an opportunity to prove how strong I am mentally and physically to overcome this and come out of it and still enter my first year on a high note.”
Wilson went right into rookie season prep mode when he was cleared to begin rehabbing after surgery. In the early stages of his recovery, he was experiencing some unexpected inflammation – some adjustments to his diet helped solve that issue. Wilson approached the 2022 Training Camp with caution and mostly participated in non-contact activities with the team.
Then, on January 7th, 2023, just over a year from his operation, Wilson was making his NLL debut against the Albany FireWolves. Wilson breathed a massive sigh of relief when he first took the floor. He had worked too hard to not have this be a special moment.
The injury and gruelling recovery had put this moment in doubt, but nothing was going to stop Wilson from playing in the NLL. Ever since he was a young boy, Max and his brother Casey played lacrosse in their family’s driveway back in Victoria, BC. One of them would be the goalie and use a broomstick, while the other was trying to score with a mini stick.
For his first month and a half in the league, everything was going according to plan for Wilson. He felt like he was starting to find his way on the left side of defense – this was influenced by the mentorship of veterans Tyson Bell and Graeme Hossack – he was playing a physical style of lacrosse that fit his 6’2” frame, he was helping to move the ball up and down the floor in transition, and was even taking reps on the face-off team.
Wilson had one of the most memorable moments of his budding career in his fourth game of the 2022-23 season. With the Thunderbirds up 16-7 against the Rochester Knighthawks and less than a minute remaining in the game, the team was awarded a penalty shot, and Wilson was tasked with going for goal.
Wilson slowly made his way to the net on his team’s home floor, made a few fakes, and scored with a low, far-side bouncer. He vigorously pumped his fist in the air and then was mobbed by his teammates as if he had just scored the game-winning goal. Wilson had just scored his first NLL goal in style, and everyone was loving it.
“When I scored that goal and all the players supported me like that, it felt like I was doing my job,” Wilson said. “I was getting that energy going into that game, and then I got to score that penalty shot, and they brought that energy to me.””
A few games later, Wilson’s world flipped upside down again when he re-tweaked his knee. He was sidelined for a couple games while he went to get X-rays in the U.S. and heal his knee. Once he returned to the floor that season, Wilson admitted that he couldn’t get back to where he had been prior to re-aggravating his injury. To say that Wilson was deflated would be an understatement.
“Your team is getting this momentum, and then you’re pulled out of the lineup and sidelined. I had to go down and get more MRIs in the States, and it kind of pulls you out of it – It pulls you out of the swing of things,” Wilson said. “I have no doubt that I will be able to get that momentum back, but that short period of time at that point of the season, it just wasn’t there for me.”
Always positive and always hungry to be his best self, Wilson used this offseason to become faster, stronger, and full of even more energy. According to Thunderbirds Head Coach Mike Accursi, Wilson has hit all the marks he was striving for. Coach Accuse has been impressed with what he’s seen from Wilson in the team’s first three games this season.
Wilson’s career is just beginning to take off, but all indications are that he can bring the thunder to the Thunderbirds this season and beyond.
By Adam Levi