Latest challenge driving Wheeler
TribLIVE Sports Videos
During his illustrious high school career, Jimmy Wheeler has cleared a lot of hurdles as a football and track and field star at West Mifflin.
As he prepares to graduate and move on to college, Wheeler is facing perhaps his biggest challenge so far.
The kid who was separated by just 124 yards from matching the single-season rushing record in the long history of the WPIAL is working hard to become eligible to play football — his first love — at Division II California (Pa.).
“I've already gotten accepted,” Wheeler said. “Now, I need to get my SAT score in line and I'll, at least, be partially eligible for the football team.”
If that happens, Wheeler, who led the WPIAL in rushing in 2013 with 2,616 yards, could practice at California but would not be permitted to play in any games until he completes the required high school core classes.
“Hopefully, he could do that with a summer class,” West Mifflin coach Ray Braszo said.
Then, California coach Mike Kellar said, Wheeler would be fully qualified and almost certainly would have a chance to contribute right away.
Wheeler gave Kellar a verbal commitment in late April, saying California was “probably the only school that showed me that much love.”
“Right now, we're hoping he can get things in order,” Kellar said. “He's undersized, but he's a hard-nosed kid, a great runner who doesn't just take a pitch and run outside. Let's face it, West Mifflin doesn't throw the ball a whole lot.
“You know what you're getting with that offense. It's power football, and Jimmy took it right at a lot of teams.”
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Wheeler rushed for at least 200 yards in eight of West Mifflin's 11 games in 2013, including a 359-yard, six-touchdown performance in a 47-42 victory over Moon in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs.
He produced back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons, combining for 4,842 yards rushing and 56 touchdowns as a junior and senior.
“He was great for us,” Braszo said. “He did what he was supposed to do. Maybe he didn't get the credit that was due him, but he took us to the finals at Heinz Field (in 2012). Some of those performances of his, you'll never see again.”
Wheeler, who also is a top sprinter for West Mifflin's track and field program, explained that he's always met the required grade-point average but said that when he was an incoming freshman, it was unclear which courses he needed.
While he gained a whopping 587 yards in just two playoff games in 2013, he didn't get another chance to break the WPIAL single-season mark after West Mifflin lost a two-point decision to Franklin Regional in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Wheeler's 2,616 yards put him behind only former Hopewell star Rushel Shell's total of 2,740 in 2009.
“I'm little, but I've got power,” Wheeler said. “There's not too many running backs that have power and are quick.
“It's hard for people to take me down. In my head, I'm not getting tackled. In my head, I don't think I'm little.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Linebacker Harrison coming along slowly since return to Steelers
- Man robbed, shot in East Liberty
- Steelers notebook: Shazier returns just in time
- Police investigate 2 shootings in Washington County, one of them fatal
- Script is it: Classic Pitt helmet design to return
- Fábregas: Cancer-stricken California woman chooses to plan her death
- Fire at Flight 93 National Memorial hints at struggle to safeguard historic artifacts
- Pens look to buck shots, goals trend
- Penguins notebook: Carcillo has no hard feelings after failing to make roster
- Pitt puts focus to test in jumbled ACC Coastal race
- Predators winger Neal caught ‘blindsided’ by trade from Penguins