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Sports Talk: Verdun-Wheeler pulling his weight at UGA

Current University of Georgia Linebacker and former Thomson Bulldog Danny Verdun-Wheeler has been busy this summer informally preparing for the upcoming season. Danny has been enrolled in summer school as well as participating in football workouts.

In a recent phone conversation with Danny, he indicated to me that classes were going well and even seemed a bit relieved about one class in particular.

"My English class has not been that bad, not like I thought it would be," said Danny. He and I discussed the fact that his high school background had created a solid foundation for college both academically and athletically.

Danny is in line for a possible starting position this fall. He started two games during his freshman campaign last year.

"I've been working at all three linebacker positions and I think I have a great chance to start at either Strong (Sam) or Weak (Will) Linebacker," he said. "If I play Will I can stay on the field more regardless of the formation."

In Georgia's defensive scheme, the Sam Linebacker often leaves the field when the opponent removes their tight end in favor of three or four wide receivers. This is especially true on second and third long yardage downs when a pass is expected. They prefer to play with a fifth defensive back.

I also asked Danny if the team had been reading all of the preseason media reports of glory.

"The only newspapers we read is when the coaches put the negative stuff on the bulletin board," he replied. "As far as we know there is nothing positive even being written."

Last Sunday's edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution research featured a picture of Danny in its' sports section. In this photo Danny was not butting heads with a Gator or Yellow Jacket. In fact, HIV/AIDS infected kids in a field day tug-of-war surrounded him and his teammates. This event was part of Georgia Coach Mark Richt's plan to make his players aware of participating in community service projects.

Knowing Danny's mother, Mrs. Susie Moton, like I do I know efforts of compassion such as this mean more to her than Danny making a million tackles on the playing field.

When I informed Danny that THS would be scrimmaging Lincoln County on Aug. 6, I could feel him perk up through the telephone. His heart obviously still holds room for the black and gold Bulldogs.

"We start practice on the ninth but I'm gonna' try my best to be at that scrimmage," said Danny. "I just hope nobody gets hurt," he wisely pointed out.

All reports from Danny personally or through the media seem to indicate that he is excelling in football, in the classroom, and in the game of life. There's no surprise there. When Danny left Thomson for Athens a year ago that's what we all expected.

Web posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004

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