It's all about giving back to his community - one that he loves from the bottom of his heart -Thomson.
That's how Washington Redskins football player Danny Verdun Wheeler sums up why he is coming back home later this month. He will return to conduct the Second Annual Danny Verdun Wheeler Football Camp at Sweetwater Park near Thomson on Saturday, April 19. The event is expected to draw 300 participants from throughout surrounding counties.
Chris Tutt of Thomson is serving as camp director. He is the older brother of Verdun-Wheeler.
Registration will begin at 9 a.m. with the camp lessons starring at 10 a.m. and going on until 3 p.m.
The camp will be conducted by Verdun-Wheeler, along with his personal trainer, Scott Courtier and his staff from Wellness Performance Institute near Atlanta. Courtier is widely-known in sporting circles. Prior to being acquired by the Washington Redskins, Verdun-Wheeler played briefly with the Chicago Bears after his star linebacker days at the University of Georgia.
He forewent off-season practice sessions with the Redskins in order to return to UGA to earn his degree.
A host of celebrities are expected to be on hand, including University of Georgia running back star Knowshon Moreno; Martrez Milner, a tight end with the Atlanta Falcons, Tony Taylor, linebacker with the Atlanta Falcons; Danny Ware, a running back with the New York Giants; Fernando Velasco, a former star with the University of Georgia Bulldogs and others.
Locally, Jasper and Casper Brinkley, former star football players at Thomson High School, like Verdun-Wheeler, the Brinkleys played football together at the University of South Carolina. This coming season, the Brinkley brothers will be split up, as Jasper returns for another season with the Gamecocks, while Casper is hoping to be picked up by a professional team.
Another local celebrity helping out at the camp will be Eddie Lee Ivery, a former Thomson Bulldog standout running back, who went on to play at Georgia Tech where he eclipsed several rushing records. He played for several years as a running back for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL. Today, Ivery has returned to the high school where he graduated in 1975 to become an assistant football coach under THS Head Coach Luther Welsh.
Two other well-known assistant football coaches from Thomson High School also will be there helping with the camp, according to Tutt. They include Coach John Barnett, who serves as the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator and Coach Brad Smith, who directly assists Coach Welsh with the offensive line.
Cost of the camp is $35, which includes a T-shirt, as well a meal of hamburgers and hot dogs and cold drinks. Proceeds from the camp will go towards off-setting the cost of two $500 scholarships which are expected to be awarded to two students at this year's Thomson High School Senior Night Awards Banquet.
At 7 p.m. that night in the gym of Thomson High School, those wearing their T-shirts from the football camp will be allowed free admission to a celebrity basketball game. General admission to the celebrity basketball game will be $5.
Tutt said he Ashley Brown, better known as "AB," on talk-radio WGAC in Martinez, will be playing in it, along with other well-known people, including the possibility of Augusta State's A.J. Bowman, a former star basketball player at Washington-Wilkes High School.
Tutt said participants attending the football camp will be taught a multitude of basic fundamentals.
"We're hoping the camp will be beneficial to all of the participants," said Tutt. "They're going to learn a lot about the basics of football. This area has been blessed with a lot of great athletes over the years and Danny just wants to come back home and give back a little of himself to the community. He wants to send a message to student/athletes that they need to stay in school, do their work in the classroom and home and work hard on the football field so that they might see their dreams come true someday of a better life, whether it's playing professional sports or just having a college education and a good job."