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Daily News Q&A: West Mifflin's Jimmy Wheeler

| Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
West Mifflin running back James Wheeler reaches for the pylon against Belle Vernon on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at West Mifflin.

Don't call him James Wheeler, although he won't be upset if you do. It's just that, secretly, the West Mifflin football star prefers to be known as Jimmy Wheeler.

But the way the 5-foot-7, 170-pound speedster has been mowing down opponents, it might be time to address him as Mr. Wheeler.

“I like to be in a leadership role,” said Wheeler, a senior running back who leads WPIAL Class AAA teams in rushing with 946 yards through four games for unbeaten West Mifflin (4-0, 4-0 Big Nine Conference). “I like for everybody to be looking up to me, especially the young guys on this team.”

Wheeler topped 2,000 yards rushing as a junior in 2012. He's almost halfway there now, with five regular-season games remaining, after totaling 223 in a 56-12 rout of Albert Gallatin on Friday.

Wheeler also scored three touchdowns — the longest a 43-yarder — for the fourth-ranked Titans.

“If you have a star on a team, he's the guy,” West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said. “He's the guy people have to stop. So far, this year, he's been great.

“But our schedule gets a whole lot tougher now.”

West Mifflin plays host to No. 9 Ringgold (3-1, 3-1) on Friday.

Q: How does it make you feel to hear your coach compare you to great running backs of the past at West Mifflin?

A: I feel good about that, especially coming from him. He's a really good coach, and he has to know when a good player is a good player. It means a lot because I know in the past, there have been a lot of talented running backs to come out of West Mifflin.

Q: Why do you think that is?

A: We run the ball a lot. We use a lot of running schemes. It's just what we do.

Q: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be?

A: Probably Bill Gates.

Q: What's your favorite class?

A: My favorite class might have to be math, because I like to deal with numbers and stuff.

Q: So that explains Bill Gates?

A: Yes, I guess so (laughing).

Q: What type of music do you mostly listen to?

A: Hip-hop. My favorite rappers are Lil Wayne and Chief Keef.

Q: What are your plans after high school?

A: I want to go to a four-year college, play on the football team and try to make a name for myself, like I've done in high school.

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