Wilson lived in Greenville, Texas but moved to Commerce, Texas, where he was a standout at quarterback and punter at Commerce High School. Wilson played college football at East Texas State University where he majored in business management. 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 and 99 touchdowns. 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."