Thomson can now claim another NFL player in its history of producing great football. And that player couldn't be happier.
Former Thomson and Georgia Bulldog linebacker, Danny Verdun Wheeler, will soon be fighting for a spot in one of the NFL's top-ranked defenses. Mr. Verdun Wheeler signed with the Chicago Bears as a free-agent after he went undrafted in this past weekend's NFL draft.
"As soon as the last pick was drafted, I was the first person they signed in free agency," he said. "I'm the only linebacker they signed as a free agent, so you can't ask for anything better than that."
Mr. Verdun Wheeler said he is excited to be able to live out his dream of playing professional football. His versatility will be a plus in the NFL. Mr. Verdun Wheeler played in all three linebacker slots during his career at Georgia.
Mr. Verdun Wheeler's former coaches are not at all surprised at his shot to make an NFL roster. According to Thomson Defensive Coordinator John Barnett, Mr. Verdun Wheeler's trainer said no one has ever worked harder to prepare for the NFL.
"From my conversations with Danny, he felt the Bears were the most interested in him," Coach Barnett said. "...They only signed seven free agents on Sunday which was less than half of what some teams signed. I think that speaks volumes of what they think of Danny's chances of making the team."
Accomplishing the initial goal of signing with a professional team is something for which Mr. Verdun Wheeler gives credit to a higher power and all those who helped him a long the way.
"I just give all the honor and glory to God," he said. "It starts with my family and all my high school coaches...and everybody who's been supporting me and just backing me. All I can say is thank you, and I promise I won't let Thomson down."
He added that his dream-come-true doesn't just include playing football for a living. He wanted to prove to the many youngsters watching him that hard work pays off.
There's more hard work to come for Mr. Verdun Wheeler, though. He begins mini-camp with the Bears today, and he still has finals left at UGA. But learning the intricacies of the linebacker position in the NFL will come at the hands of All-Pro Brian Urlacher.
"That's going to be a blessing to start my career off learning from someone like that," Mr. Verdun Wheeler said. "That could just get me an edge to stay in the NFL a long time, learning from such a great player like him."
Coach Barnett agrees.
"I'm glad to see him go to a team which has had success, and learning from an All-Pro linebacker like Brian Urlacher can only help him," he said. "I'm confident that Danny will be successful in whatever path life takes him."
One of the things that will make him successful, his former coaches said, is his inclination to help others.
"I'm all about giving. I don't care about the money and all that stuff," said Mr. Verdun Wheeler, who held his first camp for kids in Thomson last week. "I just want to be a giver. I want to give to the people that gave to me and the people that didn't give to me."