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."With his West Coast unofficial visits now out of the way Tyrone Wheatley Jr. has turned his attention to venturing down south. He plans to squeeze in just a few more trips before trimming his list to a group of finalists.
"As of right now, the next two visits on my list are the University of Florida and the University of Miami sometime at the beginning of the summer," Wheatley Jr. reported. "I want to get down there. Those may be my last two unofficial visits, but if not, the next couple on my list… I want to go down to Louisville and Auburn if I can. Also, I want to get out to Wisconsin. I don't know if I'm going to be able to take all those unofficials. I've been blessed so far to go see a lot of these schools because I know a lot of kids are not as lucky as me. I have parents that take me all over the country. We flew all the way out to California so I could go see some schools. We got to go to Disneyland and everything. It was nice. I'm truly blessed."
"My goal is to get down to seven schools by sometime in June, maybe mid-June. That is where I want to be by summertime. After I finish up the unofficials I want to focus on those schools throughout the summer and see where it goes from there. I'm definitely going to take all five of my official visits."
After so many previous positive visit experiences Wheatley expects to be impressed on all of his upcoming trips. He can't yet put his finger on the trait or traits that will distinguish one school from all the rest, he'll know it when he sees it.
"It's college so they're (all) going to have education, facilities and all that stuff," he said. "When I go places I'm looking for something different sometimes."
"It is nice when I go somewhere and something catches my eye. Maybe it is a coach, it may be a dean or administrator at the school of business or something… maybe even campus. I take notice of stuff like that. Even the little details… how people talk, how the players interact… I look at all that kind of stuff."
Once the program that best meets all of Wheatley's criteria has been identified, he plans to announce his decision in a manner in line with his personality. In other words don't expect him to do the hat trick.
"I'm not doing any of that craziness," he said laughingly. "Some kids like it, press conferences and all that. That's not me. I don't need all that. I might just call the coach and let him know. I don't even know what I'm going to do. Nothing too fresh, though. None of that."