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Verdun Wheeler perseveres through setback in pro football effort

Rejection is something Danny Verdun Wheeler has never encountered in his life.

He's always been a standout in football - even when he was a youngster playing for teams in the Thomson-McDuffie County Recreation and Leisure Services. The same was true when he made it to Thomson Middle School and again after becoming a teenager at Thomson High School.

At the University of Georgia, where Verdun Wheeler played defensive linebacker for four years, the same was true. He was talented and everyone around him knew it.

"As long as I can remember, I've always excelled in football," Verdun Wheeler told The McDuffie Mirror during an interview last Friday night.

Nearly two weeks ago, the unthinkable happened.

Verdun Wheeler was cut by the Chicago Bears as a reserve middle linebacker. In a recent pre-season performance, he had played in a game and made two tackles. He had been with the team since April.

"When you get into the pro ranks, it's all business," said Verdun Wheeler. "There are so many talented and great players to choose from. Sometimes, there's just not any room for other great players."

In simple terms, that's how those with the Chicago Bears put it to him when they decided to cut him from the team.

"They treated me good," Verdun Wheeler said. "They told me I was a great player and could definitely play in the NFL. It's just that they had a full roster and couldn't use me."

Many players would be despondent over being cut, but not the Thomson High graduate and member of the 2002 state championship squad.

He's taking it in stride and determined to fulfill his dream of someday playing professional football.

"I believe everything happens for a reason," Verdun Wheeler said. "At first, I admit, I was a little leary, because I've never experienced being cut by a team before. I felt rejection for the first time."

Verdun Wheeler hasn't let what happened get him down, though.

One of the reasons he hasn't is because he's determined to sign with another NFL team this season.

"I believe I'll get a telephone call sometime soon from a team needing a great linebacker like me," Verdun Wheeler said. "I believe in myself, my skills as a football player and I know that someday I'll play in the NFL."

He's not alone in such belief.

His agent, Hadley Engleheart, also believes such will happen someday, as do family members and many of his close friends.

"It's great to have so many people believing in me," Verdun Wheeler said.

Three of those persons are his brothers. The others are friends like former Thomson teammate Ray Cummings and University of Georgia senior offensive lineman Ferando Velasco, a product from nearby Jefferson County High School.

Right now, Verdun Wheeler is just waiting around for a telephone call - the call that just might make him a wealthy man someday and help him realize his dream of playing in the NFL at long last.

"I can't think anything negative," Verdun Wheeler said. "I'm very blessed. I just have to stay as positive and upbeat as I can."

In the meantime, he plans to continue to wait for the phone call and watch the teams he once played for at Thomson High School and the University of Georgia.

"Something good is going to happen from all of this," Verdun Wheeler said. "I just feel it."

Web posted on Thursday, September 13, 2007

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