Irvine, Ayrshire born wing half David Wilson started playing football with junior side Irvine Meadow in 1901. His professional career started later in 1901 when he signed for Scottish League Division One club St Mirren. He failed to make an appearance in his first season, but played twice in 1902-03, scoring one goal. He left in 1903 to join Division Two side Hamilton Academical, where he stayed for one season, playing five league games for the club. In November 1904, he moved to England to join Second Division Bradford City, making his Football League debut the following month at Blackpool. He made 12 League appearances and scored one goal in two years with the club, but left at the end of the 1905-06 campaign.
Wilson signed for Lancashire Combination outfit Oldham Athletic in the summer of 1906 and became a first-team regular almost at once, playing 38 matches and scoring two goals in his inaugural season. For the 1907-08 campaign, Oldham joined the Football League Second Division, and Wilson appeared in every League match between 1907 and 1911. He scored two goals in the 1909-10 season as Oldham achieved promotion to the Football League First Division. He continued to play regularly until the outbreak of the First World War, when competitive football in England was stopped at the end of the 1914-15 campaign.
On 5th April 1913, Wilson made his international debut for Scotland in the 1-0 defeat to England at Stamford Bridge, in which he played alongside his brother Andrew. After the end of the War, he kept his place in the Oldham side when League football recommenced, appearing in every match of the 1919-20 season as he had every match of the previous two pre War campaigns. At the conclusion of the 1920-21 season, Wilson left Oldham Athletic, having played 435 matches and scored 22 goals in a 15-year spell with the club.
Wilson joined newly promoted Football League Third Division (North) team Nelson in 1921. He was appointed player-manager and handed the role of taking charge of the team’s inaugural season in the Football League. He played 34 matches in his first season with Nelson and scored three goals, including one penalty, the first he had scored in his career. Wilson went on to play 30 league games in the following campaign, leading his team to promotion to the Second Division as Third Division (North) Champions. He played a further 31 matches for Nelson in the Second Division before retiring from playing at the end of the 1923-24 season, at the age of 40 after 102 appearances for Nelson. but after guiding them to 2nd place in the Third Division (North) in 1924-25, narrowly missing out on another promotion, he left the club to become a stockbroker in July 1925. He returned to football management in March 1928 with Exeter City but it proved not to be a success and he lost his job in February 1929.
He was one of four brothers who played professional football; his brother Andrew was also a Scotland international, while James spent the majority of his career with Preston North End and Alex played for Oldham Athletic.