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November 4, 2013

Senior cornerback ready for next level

Calls Blazer team ‘family’

VALDOSTA — The Blazers have a lot of talent on their offense. However, you cannot forget about the famous "Black Swarm" defense. With a linebacking core including two players climbing up the all-time tackler list in Chris Pope and Jeremy Grable, some may look past the talent the Blazers have in the secondary.

Wearing No. 21, like the great Deion Sanders, Dominique Wheeler is the No. 1 cornerback for the Blazer defense. Wheeler is 24 years old and was born in Atlanta to Sofia Bryant.

This season, Wheeler has intercepted the ball three times, and also had a fumble recovery for 86 yards. In his last game against the Delta State Statesmen, Wheeler had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. He also has 14 tackles on the season.

Raised by his mother, Wheeler grew as what he calls a "mama's boy."

“I’m a mama's boy. I love my mom,” said Wheeler.

His mother was a big part of him playing football, beginning  at the the age of 6.

In pee-wee league, Wheeler played running back. When Wheeler reached high school, he played defensive back, but mainly the cornerback position.

Wheeler played at three different high schools, including Stephenson and Roswell, where he graduated.

Wheeler went to a junior college after high school, and transferred to Valdosta State in 2010.

Once he arrived at VSU, he was able to play cornerback on nickel-and-dime packages, but did not start. Wheeler had the chance to watch Alex Webster, Matt Pierce (NFL free agent) and Steve Harden until he was able to grab the No. 1 corner spot this season.

When Wheeler is not playing football, he enjoys relaxing.

“I like to chill. I have fun every now and then, play video games and go out. But nothing too major. I like staying to myself sometimes,” said Wheeler. “I like to watch basketball a lot, too.”

At Valdosta State, Wheeler is a senior philosophy and religious studies major who is slated to graduate in May. Wheeler would like to continue to play football post graduation, wherever God leads him. He likes to read the Bible, and keeps God first at all times.

In five years, Wheeler sees himself married with a family, and playing in the NFL.

The corner’s favorite color is red, food is fried chicken, and his favorite movie is “ATL."

His favorite football team is his hometown team, the Atlanta Falcons.

His favorite players are Janoris Jenkins and Patrick Peterson, two cornerbacks in the NFL whom Wheeler also considers mentors.

“I played against Janoris Jenkins my sophomore year. It was a good experience because we came out of high school at the same time and I remember his name from back then,” said Wheeler. “It was nice getting to watch him in person, and learn a few things from him.”

His Blazer teammates describe him as outgoing and crazy, but quiet at the same time.

“I get along with everybody. I’m not really a jokester but I’m just really a cool person, I make people laugh,” said Wheeler.

On the field, Wheeler is a cover corner, who likes to play press.

“I'm a finesse type cornerback. I can tackle, but I prefer to cover. I like to play man coverage, press,” said Wheeler. Wheeler feels like he can compare to some of the smaller, more physical cornerbacks in the league right now.

“Tyrann Mathieu is a corner in the league right now that I’m similar to, and Brent Grimes. The small guys that play big, that’s me,” added Wheeler.

When asked if he was a cocky cornerback like the Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Wheeler stated the following.

“I’m not cocky, but I’m confident in my God-given abilities. I always feel like when I’m out there one on one, I’m going to win,” said Wheeler. “I know I’m not perfect and I keep getting better each day. I’m still humble, but I’m going to put in the work to be No. 1.”

Wheeler also spoke on the benefit of practicing against what he calls some of the "best receivers in the GSC."

“It gets me ready. I feel like we have the best Division II receivers on our team in ‘Nise,' ‘Stretch’ and Willie. In practice, I feel like I'm getting my best looks, because on game days, I won’t be playing against any receivers like them. I’m honestly blessed to be able to practice against them,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler spoke in reference to Blazer receivers Seantavious ‘Stretch’ Jones, Regginald ‘Nise’ Lewis and Willie Downs.

Wheeler also mentioned how lucky he was to have the teammates he does.

“I have a good relationship with my teammates. We have a close team. We might not all hang out everyday but we always have each other's back. I’d say I’m lucky to have them,” said Wheeler.

With dreams of playing in the NFL, I asked Wheeler some of the receivers and quarterbacks currently in the NFL he would like to go against.

“Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson, and A.J. Green. If we were one-one, I’d pick me. You never know, the quarterback might make a bad throw,” chuckled Wheeler. “I would like to go against Peyton Manning for a game, too. I would probably try to pick him off at least once. That would be nice. Past quarterback, I would pick Joe Montana. I’ve always loved his style and would like to play against him,” added Wheeler.

Wheeler has two more games this regular season to continue to make an impact for the Blazer defense, as they try to close the season strong.

Watch Wheeler hold down the secondary as the Blazers take on the UNC-Pembroke Braves in the GSC-Game of the Week, 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.

 

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