Wilson was born in Greenville, Texas and lived there shortly, but moved to Commerce, Texas where he spent most of his childhood. Wilson became a standout Quarterback and Punter at Commerce High School, leading the Tigers to a 10 win season as a Senior and a district championship. Wilson graduated from Commerce High School in 1977 and took a scholarship offer from Texas A&M University-Commerce (then East Texas State University).
Wilson was the starting quarterback at ETSU from 1978 to 1980 for head coach Ernest Hawkins. He led the Lions to a 5–5 record and 2nd-place finish in the Lone Star Conference as a junior, throwing for 1,826 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a senior in 1980, he led the Lions to a Lone Star Conference Championship with an 8–3–1 record, its first since winning the National Championship in 1972, and an NAIA playoff berth. (The LSC had two conference champions in 1980. ETSU won the title as it was a member of the NAIA, and Texas State University, then called Southwest Texas State University, were the crowned champions by the NCAA.) Wilson and the Lions upset the number-1-ranked Central Arkansas Bears in the national quarterfinals, but bowed out to Elon College, the eventual national champion, in the semifinal round. The Lions finished 6th in the country. Wilson graduated in 1981 with a degree in Business Management. He finished his career in Commerce throwing for 4,574 yards and 32 touchdowns. He was inducted in the Texas A&M-Commerce Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and then the Lone Star Conference Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
Wilson was drafted in the eighth round of the 1981 NFL Draft. He was a one time Pro Bowler with the Vikings in 1988 and finished his career completing 1,391 passes on 2,428 attempts for 17,283 yards, 99 touchdowns and 102 interceptions. Wilson led the Vikings to three playoff appearances in the late 80s. The Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship Game in 1987 after a tremendous upset of the 13-2 San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round, but finally succumbed 17-10 to the eventual Super Bowl XXII champion Washington Redskins. In 1993 he directed the Saints to a 5-0 start but the team only won three more to finish 8-8 Wilson's last season as a starter. Wilson retired in 1999 at age 40.
On September 1, 2007, Wilson was suspended five games and fined $100,000 for purchasing and using performance-enhancing drugs. In his defense, Wilson has said that the drug (HGH) was used to help his problem with diabetes. However, Commissioner Goodell seemed to sidestep this defense saying, "First of all, I'm not going to get into the personal situations of why Wade was taking it, but that's not an accurate point."