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Below is an excerpt from our Yearbook feature on Tyrone Wheatley Jr.
That willingness to let his son find his own way eventually led T.J. Michigan… which is exactly what dad wanted. But it turned out to be the narrowest of victories for the Maize & Blue. Young Wheatley’s decision to take his talents to Ann Arbor came in the 23rd hour… literally.
“On my UCLA visit (Friday January 23rd to Sunday January 25th), I loved it out there with Coach Mora and all the guys,” Wheatley Jr. recalled. “I talked to my dad on Monday night after I got back and decided to go out (to Michigan) and take a visit. I flew out the next day for my official out there. I got home and talked to my family over the weekend, woke up my birthday morning (on February 4th, national signing day) and wasn’t sure where I was going. I thought I was going to UCLA on the drive to school that day. I called my family 15-20 minutes before the ceremony (to announce his decision). We were just talking and I decided to go to Michigan.”
It marked the end of an abrupt courtship by Michigan’s new staff… one that was indelibly influenced by his father’s hire. Before that Michigan had fallen completely off of Junior’s list. In the end the chance to be a part of returning Michigan to national prominence was a big lure, but the chance to be close to loved ones while he did so was even bigger.
“First off, it is very rare that someone gets to play for their dad as a coach on the staff, so that was pretty cool,” Wheatley Jr. said. “Also, the whole legacy thing. Plus it’s just easier on my mom. She’s going to be out in Ann Arbor, my family is going to be in Ann Arbor. My brother is going to be playing Friday night games and he is going to be recruited soon. Michigan is going to be playing Saturday afternoons. She would either have to watch him play and my dad coach, or fly out and watch me play. I can go (to and Michigan) play with him and it’ll be easier on her, and it’s still big time football and it’s still a great degree. That was one big thing. Also, Coach Mattison talking to him and Coach Jay Harbaugh… actually getting to sit down with them on my official and see what their plan was and all that. I never got to do that before. So that was nice too. I felt like they can really develop me. Either one of them can get me to where I want to get to.”
That ultimate athletic goal is obviously making it to the NFL, just like dad. Choosing Michigan is definitely going to amplify the father/son comparisons, but junior doesn’t seem at all fazed by it. He looks at it as more of an honor than a hindrance.
“There was never really pressure (derived from being compared to his father),” Wheatley Jr. said. “To outside eyes, it is always going to be a pressure… there are always going to be expectations. Every time I step on the field there are going to be expectations just because of my name. For me personally, I never felt any pressure. I’m Tyrone Wheatley, Jr, and he is Tyrone Wheatley. We have the same name, but I’m Junior. So we’re not the same person. I just go out and do my thing and hopefully everything works out, but there has never really been any pressure. I know what everyone expects, but it doesn’t affect me because at the end of the day all I got to do is what I do and I’ll be straight.”
To view this feature in its entirety plus in-depth features on Zach Gentry, Alex Malzone, Keith Washington, and Grant Perry, player capsules with expert analysis and coaching commentary on each signees, a breakdown on how Michigan's last ten recruiting classes have fared, plus a comprensive B1G recruiting report, our national recruiting magazine, and much much more, check out the next issue of GoBlueWolverine