This past Saturday, an article popped up from the Ann Arbor News about Tyrone Wheatley.
Wheatley was contacted last December by former Michigan defensive coordinator and current Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English. English needed a running backs coach and Tyrone Wheatley was really really good at something having to do with football, but I can’t remember what . . .
Wheatley played for Michigan from 1991 to 1994 and racked up 4,187 rushing yards and 47 touchdowns. His best season was his sophomore year, when he averaged 7.3 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns. He wrapped up his college career as Michigan’s second-leading rusher and with the second-highest yards per carry average (6.1).
Picked 17th by the New York Giants in 1995, Wheatley appeared to be the heir apparent to Pro Bowler Rodney Hampton.
Then that damn Tiki Barber guy showed up. (Hey, Tiki, Mercury Hayes says hello.)
Wheatley shuffled off to Oakland after the 1998 season, where he spent six years learning how not to run a football team from Al Davis. He ended his career after the 2004 season with 4,962 rushing yards and 47 rushing and receiving touchdowns. Hey, those numbers look kind of familiar . . .
Anyway, Wheatley spent one season as the head coach of his alma mater at Dearborn Heights Robichaud, where he went undefeated (thanks, Al Davis!). Then he spent one season coaching and getting educated at Ohio Northern. Now he’s an FBS assistant coach with head coaching aspirations.
Wheatley was one of my favorite players growing up. He was fast and strong and I thought he got a raw deal in New York. But then again, at that point in my intellectual development, I thought every Michigan player was destined for the NFL Hall of Fame and a presidential nomination. I remember being sad when he graduated and even though several good running backs have passed through Ann Arbor in the past 15 years, there hasn’t been one quite like Wheatley.
(I’m not saying they’re equal players, but I’ll be damned if those Wheatley highlights didn’t remind me of Brandon Minor. The violent-but-upright running style, the size, and the stride all look similar.)
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