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Verdun Wheeler signs up to encourage reading

He still can't get used to signing his autograph, especially in his hometown. But one local celebrity recently used his John Hancock to help promote the library's summer children's programs.

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Mr. Verdun Wheeler poses with Emily Baumann, a member of the Friends of the Library.

The University of Georgia's star linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler used to shine in The Brickyard. Now he helps anchor another Bulldog defense between the hedges, but he still finds time to give back to the community that he calls home.

Mr. Verdun Wheeler signed two footballs that will be given away to children in the Thomson-McDuffie County Library's summer reading program. Each Friday a drawing will be held for different prizes such as book bags, t-shirts and the footballs sporting the local hero's autograph.

The reason for lending his pen was simple; he hopes to get kids involved in reading at an early age.

"I've been knowing about the library program since I was a little kid. I used to participate in it every summer," said the rising UGA junior. "Trying to help kids want to be anxious to read about something will better help them in the long run."

And his advice for those kids participating in the program is to "let this reading fun program be a start to many many other things in their lives."

His influence on the kids is priceless, according to Suzan Harris, the public and children's services coordinator for the library.

"I think he's an outstanding young man. I'm just totally impressed with this guy," she said, adding that the footballs could help increase participation in middle school age children who normally lose interest in reading.

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Georgia Bulldog Linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler signs a football last week at the library.

The Bulldogs' starting linebacker even wishes he could have done more for the program that did so much for him during his youth.

"I wish I could have signed a bunch of balls and passed them out to every kid. That would have been great," he said, even though signing his autograph feels strange. "I'm just honored, proud, and every day I thank God for putting me in this situation."

He still finds time to visit his family and friends in Thomson, but summer classes and 5 a.m. football workouts are keeping Mr. Verdun Wheeler busy for now.

"It was real intense getting back into the mix, working out, training and lifting," he said of his first day at practice this past Monday. "We did a lot of running. It's nothing we haven't ever seen before."



Web posted on Thursday, June 9, 2005











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