Danny Wheel doesn’t remember exactly who gave him his nickname, but after everything he went through to become a scholarship football player for the Hokies, it was certainly well-earned.
“I guess it was in practice,” Wheel said. “I might have made a good play and Cornell [Brown] called me The Wheel Deal. It was either Cornell or Lawrence Lewis. Actually it was probably Lawrence Lewis, because he made a nickname up for everybody. One of the funniest guys I’ve ever met in my life is Lawrence Lewis.”
In these days of college football, where fans love to keep up with 4-star and 5-star recruits, there aren’t many stories like Danny Wheel’s. He took the road less traveled to Virginia Tech.
“I started off in the ROTC, in the Corps of Cadets because I wanted to be in the Air Force,” Wheel noted. “That’s the first reason I came to Virginia Tech. They had an ROTC program, and that was my best way to get to the Air Force.”
Obviously Wheel didn’t get to Virginia Tech in the same manner as most football players. He didn’t even get to Tech in the same manner as most walk-ons. The vast majority of walk-ons are invited. Wheel had to announce his presence to the coaching staff and earn a spot on the roster.
“I was there my first week with the Corps of Cadets and I just went over there on my free time and talked to the coaches,” Wheel said. “I came out right after school started, I came out the first day of practice and they put me on the team.”
It’s not surprising that college coaches didn’t notice Wheel when he was coming out of Lafayette High School.
“I didn’t have any scholarship offers for football. We went 0-20 my last two years. I love football, I wanted to play football when I got to college, so I decided to walk on. They gave me the opportunity.”
After competing against the likes of Allen Iverson at the high school level, within a few years Wheel would be on the same field as future NFL All-Pros like Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb. That doesn’t mean he gave up the Corps of Cadets,...
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