Sam Webb: There’s no mistaking where you went to school.
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “You know what, it’s been a while since I was just able to come out with my maize and blue on and represent. I’ve always felt funny wearing it, but you know what? What the heck, man, I have to represent it. It’s called passive aggressive recruiting.”
Sam Webb: Any not-so-subliminal messages to both of your kids? They see you walking around with the maize and blue on?
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “They know this is where I went to school, and this is what I love, so I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s subliminal, but they – like I said, let’s cut the questions, they know where I’m at, they know where my heart is at, and I’ll tell you a funny story; they say I even act different when I’m in the state of Michigan. They say ‘dad, you’re a different person when you’re here. You’re smiling, and you’re happy’. But this is home, man, this is where I want to be.”
Sam Webb: Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, TJ came and said ‘dad, I’m ready to be a Buckeye’. What would you say?
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “I can’t say it on camera, can’t say it on camera.”
Sam Webb: It’s tough to separate being dad from being coach. Try to be coach for a moment and tell me, for both boys, how you think they did out here.
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “Both boys, I think they did ok. They’re still getting used to the camp circuit. What I mean by that is, you know, learning how to get your reps, learning how to get in, because right now they’re in the whole mode of team, and trying to be organized, and this is not organized, you know, it’s kind of open, guys are holding and grabbing, so they’re not really used to that, so they’re still getting used to the circuit. But other than that, they did really well.”
Sam Webb: TJ switched between tight end and defensive end and said he had some success in both. Did you see him get any reps over at defensive end?
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “I saw a couple of reps at defensive end, and I think he did alright. You know, one of the things right now we have to work on is pad level and hands, but get-off right now is really good. I like his get-off.”
Sam Webb: He said he prefers that tight end spot, soft hands, he ran good routes.
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “He says he has soft hands.”
Sam Webb: He took contact and still pulled the ball down. He was over there making plays, man.
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “This is what I told him, I said one thing, I said in terms of getting paid, look at the big scale of the tight ends versus the defensive ends. That’s all I told him. But at the end of the day, it’s not always about the money, it’s about having fun, what he wants to do, and what he enjoys. If he enjoys catching the ball and wants to be a tight end, I support him.”
Sam Webb: We’ve talked a lot about a lot of things, but certainly about his recruitment. I’ve asked you about how you feel and what you think, but what about mom? What is mom saying about the whole thing?
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “You know what, mom started this whole process off – you know how moms are, ‘hey, that’s my baby, I’m going to be in this thing thick and thin’; so I told her, I said ‘ok, listen, you’re going to go to the first two or three camps, go on the visits’, and now she doesn’t want to go anymore. She said ‘hey, you guys handle it, I trust you guys’, so mom really just wants what’s best for him, and she started off big and bad, selling a bunch of wolf tickets, but mom right now is kind of one of those deals like, ‘hey, he understands what’s going on’. Surprisingly, he’s matured, and he’s caught a grasp of this recruiting game, so he has a plan, he knows what he wants, he knows what he’s looking for, and so we kind of really feed off of him.”
Sam Webb: Give me an idea, because I know that you try to set up some structure and let him operate within that structure. As you laid it out, what’s kind of the game plan moving forward… camps, campus visits? What do you have in line for him, say for the next half year, year or so?
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “Well, we’ve done the camps so far right now. Like I said, just for him to get out, because what he needs to understand is competition is not just regional, it’s not local, it’s national. So basically what I wanted to do this year was just get him out and let him see the other tight ends, and let him see what the offensive line looks like, see what the defensive ends look like, just so he can get a picture of that. Not so much to compete, but just to see what it looks like, and see what the upper echelon of talent looks like. Next year, if he wants to go to camps, he can do it. If he wants to do the Rival camps, he can do those, but right now I just want to give him a chance to see those things, and also let coaches see him. Now that that’s happened, he has what he wants, he’s kind of – I wouldn’t say in the driver’s seat right now, but hey, do you need to do another camp? No, you don’t, so it’s up to him, really.”
Sam Webb: So how much do you hear from Fred Jackson? How much do you hear from Brady Hoke?
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “You know what, I’m going to tell you the honest to goodness truth. They don’t abuse the relationship, and I respect that, and for Michigan men, you expect nothing but the best; classy individuals, great guys, utmost character, especially exemplary of a Michigan man. They don’t abuse the relationship; they recruit TJ and only TJ. They don’t recruit me; they don’t come after me. So once again, hats off to big blue.”
Sam Webb: Is that joke principle still in effect, that every sort of (Michigan) joke that you give to your son is 10% truth?
Tyrone Wheatley Sr.: “Hey, it’s still in effect now. It’s still in effect. Like I say, at the end of the day, he understands and knows where my heart and my allegiance is, and with that being said, I have to tread water really closely, because it’s one of those things where if I push too hard, I might turn him off, so it’s kind of one of things, I stay back, and as we say, I lay in the cut, I try to be invisible. Like I said, every once in a while, I cast a shadow of ‘M’ over, but also to give everybody else that’s recruiting him a fair chance, because I don’t want that to be – I want the best school for him. Michigan man not be the best school for him, and by me pushing Michigan and people saying I’m his father, maybe push somebody away, and I would hate to do that for my son’s future and career. I don’t want to be that guy, so they’re recruiting TJ, they’re not recruiting me, and that’s what I tell guys, recruit him not me.”