The McDuffie Mirror
  

Subscribe Today!
Quick Hits
    · Home
· Subscribe
· Contact Us
· Archive
· Subscribe
    · News
· Business
· Opinion
· Schools
    · Sports
    · Community
· Obituaries
· Weddings
· Engagements
· Births
· Anniversaries
· Submit Event

· Search Legal Ads


 E-mail this story      Printer-friendly version

Making his mark: Former Thomson player earns role in one of nation's top collegiate defenses

ATHENS, Ga.-- Danny Verdun Wheeler was having trouble keepingİa straight face while he was interviewed recently at Georgia's Woodruff Practice Facility.

101604_Safety_Jube_jb.jpg

UGA's Danny Verdun Wheeler (l), Greg Blue (top) and David Pollack celebrate Vedun Wheeler's second quarter safety against Vandy in their game Saturday, Oct. 16, 2004.
Photo by Jeff Blake
He can thank fellow linebacker Odell Thurman for that.

Although he did his best to answer questions, Wheeler couldn't keep from smiling at his friend and defensive cohort who wasİstanding three feet away, offering his own colorful remarks.

"Having No. 33 (Thurman) next to you always makes your job easier," Verdun Wheeler said.

"He's right about that," responded Thurman.

Actually, Verdun Wheeler isn't doing bad himself. Five consecutive starts at weakside linebacker is evidence of that.

"It's been fun, I'veİenjoyed it, but I know I've got to get a lot better," Verdun Wheeler said. "I'm just glad to be making the most of the opportunity that I have."

When spring practice began, Verdun Wheeler was one of a number of players defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was looking to use in a backup role, until starter Tony Taylor went down with a season-ending ACL injury.

But Verdun Wheeler wasn't a lock to fill the void.

Even after Thurman was suspended for the first three games, forcing VanGorder to shift Derrick White from weakside linebacker to the middle for the season-opener against Georgia Southern, Verdun Wheeler still found himself on the sideline, with sophomore Jarvis Jackson starting in White's former position.

Verdun3.jpg

Verdun Wheeler recovers a Tennessee fumble during Geogria loss to the Volunteers.
Photo by John Curry
That soon changed.

After an ankle injury to White, coaches were forced to reshuffle the linebacker rotation and Verdun Wheeler started against South Carolina. He hasn't been out of the lineup since.

"When Tony went down, I felt I had to pick up my game and work even harder than I did before," said Verdun Wheeler. "That was a big hole that needed to be filled."

Although Verdun Wheeler still struggles with technique from time to time, VanGorder is pleased with his effort.

"Danny's still learning, but he's working hard every day to get better," he said. "He's continuing to improve."

Verdun Wheeler credits Thurman for that.

"There's still a lot I need to learn, but having (Thurman) there helps me with that," Verdun Wheeler said. "He's a great example. I just try to follow his lead."

Verdun2.jpg

Verdun Wheeler tackles Tennessee's Robert Meachem.
Photo by John Curry
Verdun Wheeler set plenty of examples himself during his career at Thomson High, which culminated with a Class AAAA state championship in 2002.

Add that to just about every individual award a state high school player can win, including the Class AAAA Defensive Player of the Year, the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder came to Georgia as one of Mark Richt's most prized recruits.

"There's some pressure that comes with that, but at the same time I wanted to show that I could be just as good a player in college that I was in high school," said Verdun Wheeler, who played in 11 games as a freshman, including two starts. "I just want to keep playing well."


Verdun1.jpg

Verdun Wheeler tackles Tennessee's Brent Schaeffer during the first half of Georgia's game with Tennessee.
Photo by John Curry

101604_Wheeler_Safety_jb.jpg

Verdun Wheeler tackles Vanderbilt running back Jeff Jennings for a safety in the second quarter of their game Saturday, Oct. 16, 2004.
Photo by Jeff Blake



Web posted on Thursday, October 21, 2004


What do you think?  Send us your comments










Weather
Temperature:53° F
Conditions:overcast
Wind:from the W at 5 MPH
Humidity:100%
Visibility:10 miles
Dew Point:53° F
Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01
Calendar
Thomson

Grovetown
42

14
Warren County

Wilkinson County
20

35
David Emanuel Academy

Briarwood Academy
12

22
· Scoreboard
Team Pages
Team Schedules

Calendar
February

S M T W T F S
21 22 23 24 25 26 27


Online Poll
Do you support the school system's graduation policy?
Yes
No
Undecided
View results











© 2011 The McDuffie Mirror. Contact the .
View our .