Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

July 7, 2014

Dominique Wheeler showing confidence as NFL rookie

VALDOSTA — Dominique Wheeler slowly made a name for himself during his four-year career as a Valdosta State Blazer. Playing at the cornerback position, Wheeler had to wait his turn to start at the position. However by the time he ended his senior year, he had played in 45 games, including nine starts his senior season.

Wheeler totaled 83 tackles, six interceptions and four defensive touchdown returns, including a 70-yard return against Delta State his senior year. Four of the interceptions came in his final season as a Blazer, showing that Wheeler routinely found himself around the ball on defense.

After the NFL draft ended, Wheeler received calls from the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans, both having signed former Blazers Greg Reid and Matt Pierce at one point, in addition to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Weighing the options between the teams and their depth charts, Wheeler decided to go with the Jaguars.

“I felt like that was my big opportunity to get out on the field. I looked at their roster and felt like I could make the team,” said Wheeler.

Attending the rookie mini-camp on May 15, Wheeler knew that he had made the right decision.

“It was an amazing experience. My first day out there it was a feeling I can’t even describe. It’s something that I dreamed about and I was out there doing it,” said Wheeler.

The NFL and college have been known to have a different level of competition, however Wheeler notes a few other differences between the two than just competition levels.

“The speed of the players and practice tempo are definitely different. You’re also able to have a lot more freedom in the NFL than in college,” said Wheeler.

In the second round of the NFL draft, the Jaguars drafted former University of Southern California receiver Marquise Lee. Wheeler has had the task of going against the star receiver during mini-camps and it has helped make Wheeler a better player.

“Lee is fast. He has so much speed and he comes out his breaks well. I’ve had to cover him a few times in OTA’s,” said Wheeler.

As a defensive player, Wheeler benefits from a few key factors on the Jaguars, one in particular is being helped by defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker.

“Will Blackmon has been very helpful as far as defensive back stuff. Another rookie that has been talking to me a lot about stuff and helping me learn things has been former Oregon State cornerback Rashaad Reynolds,” said Wheeler.

“(Walker) has helped me a lot. He’s taught me a lot of things I didn’t know and has helped me improved the stuff I already knew. He’s making me better as a player.”

Unlike his former Blazer teammates Seantavius Jones and Lawrence Virgil, who are both with the New Orleans Saints, Wheeler is the lone Blazer with the Jaguars.

“It’s really different. I’ve been with them boys for four years straight, so being on a NFL team without them is crazy. I wish everyone the best though, we’re going to all make it one day,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler, like most NFL players, is on a brief vacation period from football activities with his NFL team but will return to the Jags' training camp later in July.

“The whole experience has been amazing to me. I can’t pinpoint one thing out, I just know that everything has been amazing and almost indescribable,” said Wheeler.

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