Former Thomson Linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler has made an impact at the University of Georgia this year. And he will see action in his first bowl game against Purdue at the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day.
"I've just got a great feeling, and I can't wait until Jan. 1," Verdun Wheeler said. "I feel the excitement, and I'm ready to just have fun doing something that I love."
Georgia's Odell Thurman (left), David Pollack (top) and Danny Verdun Wheeler (42) stop University of South Carolina Quarterback Dondrial Pinkins for a three-yard loss in the fourth quarter of UGA's 31-7 win against the Gamecocks in September Click here for more photos
Morris News Service
Because of a mixture of his skill and injuries to the Bulldogs, Verdun Wheeler has seen significant playing time for a freshman. The 2002 THS graduate has started two games at linebacker for UGA and seen much time on special teams.
"It's been a good honor," he said. "I thank God for the blessings and the opportunities He gave me. I really worked hard in the off-season to prepare myself for that, and I'm going to work even harder this off-season to see if I can get a full-time job."
It wasn't just the off-season that prepared him for college. Verdun Wheeler said his time at Thomson helped get him ready for UGA football.
"Basically what Thomson High taught me, it's always full speed, hard-nosed football," Verdun Wheeler said. "That's the same thing as it is in Athens. So other than picking up the pace a little bit, it's basically about the same routine that we did here at Thomson High School."
Verdun Wheeler's old high school coaches were glad to have a hand in preparing him for college. And the time he has spent on the field for Georgia has not come as a surprise to them either.
"Knowing Danny like I do, I know he prepares every week as if he will be expected to play the entire game even though his role this year has been primarily as a back-up and on special teams," said Thomson Defensive Coordinator John Barnett.
But it's more than his size and strength that have put him on the field, according to Coach Barnett. He said that Verdun Wheeler is a smart player.
"Aside from Danny's obvious physical attributes as a football player, he is very cerebral when it comes to the game," Coach Barnett said. "He is always in tune to a team's tendencies and his assignments based on a given formation.İHis abilities make him able to both play the run with effectiveness, but also do an amazing job in coverage."
Verdun Wheeler is not only smart on the football field, he has shown prowess in the classroom as well. He will make the Academic Dean's List this semester with As and Bs in all of his classes
And his mother is happier with his accomplishments in the classroom than she his of his time on the gridiron.
"I think I'm more proud of him academically than I am so much of sports," said Verdun Wheeler's mother, Susie Moton, who works at Thomson Middle School. "He's doing real well in school."