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Former THS Bulldogs working on college success

Last year's state championship made people in the football world give Thomson another look. And college coaches were not immune to that.

In record numbers, Thomson football players signed with college teams. Now as the college football season comes to a close, several of those players have been a force to reckon with during their freshman seasons.

Most notably, Danny Verdun Wheeler has had much playing time at linebacker for the Georgia Bulldogs since October. Although he had seen action in earlier games on the kickoff team, Verdun Wheeler made his first start at linebacker against Alabama on Oct. 4 in place of the injured Arnold Harrison. He also started against the University of Alabama Birmingham on Oct. 25.

"Danny had to jump in and start one ball game, and he played like a veteran that day,' said UGA Head Coach Mark Richt. "He didn't play scared or nervous or unsure. You can see by a guy's body language the kind of confidence he has in what he's doing. Danny has a lot of that.'

The only game Verdun Wheeler has not participated in was the first game of the season against Clemson. That may change soon though. During the Georgia Tech game this past weekend, Verdun Wheeler suffered a concussion, but he tells reporters he's fine now.

Also getting some time on the college gridiron was another Thomson graduate playing linebacker in college. Dexter Crawford will be fighting for a starting job at Clark Atlanta University next year, according to Head Coach Tracy Ham.

"He's going to be a heck of a football player for us,' Coach Ham said. "He has a great attitude. He comes from a good program.'

Coach Ham played with Alvin Wright, one of Thomson's coaches during college. He also knows Coach Luther Welsh. When it came to recruiting players from Thomson, he knew he would get quality.

"I'm familiar with their program and the type of athletes that have come out of Thomson over the years,' Coach Ham said. "It's not a new trend, the quality of athletes coming out. It's been a program that has put out quality athletes for quite some time.

"It's been a program that when I took the head coaching job here at Clark Atlanta that I knew we had to get into because I knew the depth and quality of players that they put out.'

Clark Atlanta went through a rebuilding year, playing mostly freshmen and sophomores. They ended up with record of 0-11 this season, but Coach Ham is optimistic about the future of his team because of players like Crawford.

It wasn't only defensive stars that made it to college football though. Thomson's quarterback last year, Deon Palmer, was red-shirted for Georgia Southern this year. But according to Head Coach Mike Sewak, Palmer will get lots of playing time on special teams and will compete for time at quarterback next year.

"He's more athletic than some of the quarterbacks that our football team saw this season,' Coach Sewak said. "There's a lot of things that guy can do for us to help our football team next year. ... There'll be a lot of people pointing to him saying 'He came from here; he came from here."

Coach Sewak attributed the strong showing of Thomson players in college this year to several reasons. Good coaching and community support were key factors, he said.

"Those kids want to go out there are continue to bring honor to their high school coaches and their hometowns,' Coach Sewak said. "I think that was instilled in them, and Thomson's always been a must-stop on any recruiting trip.'

Like Palmer, not all of Thomson's players made it to the field this year.

Three players that will help the Georgia Military College's team out next year are Jasper Brinkley, Brian Brinson and Montrel Neal. They did not play this season, but will start their stint at GMC in January.

"All three are excellent players and seem to be fine young men,' said Bert Williams, GMC head football coach. "We are anxious to get them here with us.'

Another program that is anxious to get a Thomson player is the Middle Tennessee State University football team. Demarco McNair red-shirted during this season, but will join the Blue Raiders next season.

"They like what they see out of (McNair), the speed and everything' said Mark Owens, assistant athletic director at MTSU. "They're pretty pleased with him.'

Morris News Service writer Larry Williams contributed to this story.



Web posted on Thursday, December 4, 2003











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