Former Thomson football star Danny Verdun Wheeler got his first taste of a bowl game win as a Bulldog last Thursday. Georgia defeated Purdue 34-27 in overtime at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
Verdun Wheeler played on special teams and at linebacker in the game. The bowl experience was one he hopes to be able to have again and again.
"It was great. I enjoyed it," he said. "It was good experience. That's what I needed."
Danny Verdun (42) helps make a tackle during the Capital One Bowl in Orlando's Citrus Bowl Jan. 1.
Photo courtesy of Morris News Service
Georgia pulled out to a 24-0 lead early in the game, but Purdue stormed back in the second half to tie the game at 27. Verdun Wheeler was never worried.
"I wasn't nervous at all," he said. "We had got a little too relaxed too quick. I was like 'Hey, time to get back to work.' I wasn't really worried. I don't think too many people were."
According to the true freshman, Georgia was able to execute its game plan efficiently. The only glitch was the Purdue comeback.
"It played out smooth. Everything was according to plan, except for the second half," Verdun Wheeler said. "A win is a win in college."
Verdun Wheeler even found himself on the field late in the game during a goal-line stance. He said that Georgia's defense is best in that situation.
"I really wasn't thinking about much other than doing my job," he said of the sequence. "Coach put me in to do a job, and he has confidence in me."
Even though Verdun Wheeler was on the field quite often during the game, he wasn't shown much by the television coverage. According to Thomson Defensive Coordinator John Barnett, that's a good thing.
"The fact that he wasn't seen on TV a lot means that he wasn't burned when Purdue made plays," he said.
Coach Barnett has not been surprised by his former linebacker's play at Georgia. Neither was he surprised that the Georgia coaches had confidence in Verdun Wheeler.
"Danny has always taken challenges well and thrives when people doubt him," Coach Barnett said.Ý"Even as well as he played during our championship season, there were some who doubted he could go to Georgia and play and especially not as a freshman."
Of all the memories Verdun Wheeler will take from his freshman year, winning the Capital One Bowl will be one of the biggest. He said that the most memorable part of that experience was the exciting atmosphere that surrounded the event.
Despite the excitement all around the game, Verdun Wheeler didn't consider the game itself to be much different from a mid-season game.
"It kind of felt like a regular game to tell you the truth," he said "Preparing for it was like a regular game; the atmosphere at the stadium was like a regular game. It didn't feel like one of those big-time Georgia-Florida games, or big Georgia-Tennessee games. It felt like a regular SEC game. We just went out there and had fun."
Up next for Verdun Wheeler is spring practice in March. Between now and then, he said he will hit the weight room to try and build strength and muscle for next season.