Tyrone Wheatley Jr. is finally exhaling a bit. The past eight months consisted of the talented youngster giving his all on the gridiron during the fall, before doing the same on the hardwood in the winter. Along the way he had to balance the demands of a relentless physical schedule with the mental demands that stem from the rigorous academic offerings at Buffalo (N.Y.) Canisius. That left little time to spend on recruiting, until now. Suddenly opportunities to take visits are arising again and he is taking full advantage. He began doing so earlier this month with a stop in Ann Arbor for Michigan’s annual spring game.
“It was kind of on a fly,” said Wheatley. “We were just sitting down one day and my dad was like, ‘I’ve got some time and Michigan’s spring game is this weekend. Do you want to go?’ I was like, ‘yeah let’s go.’ So we got to go down there for the spring game and hang out. I got to go to lunch and watch the game. I got to see a bunch of old friends because the alumni night was the night before, so we had a good time.”
After numerous past trips to his dad’s alma mater there were few aspects of Michigan’s program that Wheatley wasn’t familiar with. Then Wolverines renovated their football building that abruptly changed.
“This particular trip was different,” said Wheatley. “This was the first time that I’ve been back since they actually finished the new Schembechler Hall. I was surprised. It was really nice. I saw the design and stuff the last time I went and everything, but to actually see it finished. We got to go inside and look at all the displays and stuff. It was really nice.”
Next on the visit docket was a long anticipated to trips to USC and UCLA. It was a homecoming of sorts for youngster that spent many of his formative years watching Pac 12 football while his dad was a member of the Oakland Raiders.
“I had a great time,” said Wheatley. “I really enjoyed myself. At UCLA Coach Mora is a great guy, I really enjoyed spending time with him. We got to sit down and watch film and stuff. USC was also really nice. It is one of my favorite schools growing up as a kid. I lived out in California. I like the Trojan, when he threw the sword in the ground and all that good stuff. It is exciting to actually go there and see everything. I actually got to try to pull the sword out of this thing that they had going to the tunnel to the locker room in the practice facility. So that was pretty cool. I really had a good time. I met Osa Masina, a linebacker from Utah. He’s a great guy. I got to know him a little bit. We actually went to lunch together and then went to dinner after the (USC) visit, after practice, so that was nice.”
One of the major topics of discussion during both visits was position. The Pac 12 rivals are courting Wheatley for different sides of the football.
“UCLA, they’re not really known for big tight ends, like me… hand-in-the-ground guys,” he said. “They have more receiving guys. UCLA for me, I’m kind of looking at them more for defense and that is what they are looking at too. We talked a lot about defense. Coach Mora told me that he pictures me playing outside linebacker and defensive end, pass rusher guy.”
“USC is more tight end. I’ve been talking to (Marques) Tuiasosopo for a while. He is one of my favorite recruiters. He was recruiting me when he was over at Washington, so more offensive side for them. He is a good guy. I got to talk to him a little bit. We got to watch some film of routes and all that good stuff.”
The favorable impressions made by both schools made each of them a strong candidate for the pared down list Wheatley plans to release during the summer. Take into account the family ties he still has in the area and their respective cases are even stronger.
“My god sister lives in L.A. actually,” he said. “She does a little bit of acting and modeling stuff out there. We went to dinner with her dad the first night we were out there, which was nice. My grandma has some relatives out there too.”
Stay tuned for part two during which Wheatley will discuss future visit plans, his timeline for narrowing down his list, and more.