Head football Coach Norm Chow called the Pearl City, Hawaii, native, "a very fun-loving young man, who was well-liked by his teammates."
A Honolulu Fire Department report indicated Wilson was noticed missing by a group of friends about 4:30 a.m. Saturday after they had gone wading at Sandy Beach, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
Wilson's body was recovered later in the morning.
"He was an exciting football player who came to us from the University of Washington and whom we felt would help us at running back," Chow said. "He overcame some obstacles in his life and he was the perfect lesson to our team to never quit. Our thoughts and prayers are with Willis' family during this difficult time."
Wilson starred at a high-school in Lakewood, Wash., where he was an all-state running back. He rushed for 1,425 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior, the newspaper reported.
Wilson's father Jack played for Hawaii in the 1980s.