Wheldon joins the stat sheet

Published 5:49 pm Thursday, October 11, 2018

When Troy fullback Zacc Weldon hauled in a Sawyer Smith catch near the goaline last Thursday, many shrugged it off as a short gain. But for Wheldon, it was a play that has been in the works since he arrived on campus in 2015.

Wheldon’s catch during the early stages of the second quarter was his first career reception.

“I made the catch, I held onto the ball, so I learned a little bit of trust,” Wheldon said. “It was great, but since I always strive for perfection, I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to just because I was so close to the endzone. I was really glad to get that catch and earn some trust.”

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Not only is it a rarity that Wheldon catches a pass, but a look in the direction of the fullback is almost as rare.

Before his target last Thursday, Wheldon had only one play called in his direction, and that came in last season’s finale against Arkansas State.

“There was another one at Idaho,” Wheldon said. “It wasn’t called specifically for me, but I came open for just a minute and Brandon Silvers looked at me and threw it right at my feet just to get it away. There were really two opportunities, one called for specifically for me.

Despite not hearing his name called in practice, Wheldon runs the play regularly in practice.

“This is my third year starting, my fourth year playing college football,” Wheldon said. “So, there is a second where I kind of want to freak out and get into the moment, but I’m like, I did this during practice. I have done this for four years now, so I get into the rhythm and block everything out.”

The play was an exciting time for Wheldon; however, if he was able to get one more yard and score his first touchdown in the process, that would have been the icing on the cake for the junior.

“Yeah it hurt,” Wheldon said. “He hit my legs and I went kind of vertical and did a front flip. I watched the endzone float away and I was like man.”

His teammates including Smith were quick to give Wheldon a hard time when he returned to the sideline after the Trojans turned the ball over on downs.

“He had his opportunity – that’s all I’m going to say. He had his opportunity,” joked Smith. “I knew he was going to catch the ball. It was just a matter of him getting in. I just wanted him to get in so bad. My mom recorded the game and I watched it. My reaction was kind of funny because I wanted him to get in. Everybody wanted him to get in. He’s (an upperclassman) here, he blocks well for everybody. He had his opportunity, and I wanted him to get in.”

Wide receiver Tray Eafford was blocking on the outside for Wheldon after he hauled in the catch. Eafford was quick to blame himself for Wheldon not scoring.

“He was supposed to score his first touchdown; it was my fault on that,” Eafford said. “Hopefully we can get that in again so I can block for him this time. I was just talking to him about that. I just didn’t hold my block.”

Despite the hard time, Troy players and coaches were thrilled that Wheldon hauled in his first catch and they all hope he will get more opportunities.

“It’s great,” Wheldon said. “Playing a support position, at times you can feel like you don’t get noticed. So it’s great when your teammates rally around you and support you. B.J. and Frye are always talking to me and Chunn and Josh did a great job last year, always giving me appreciation for what I do.”

“We’ve actually got some things we’re going to use him on,” said head coach Neal Brown. “We’re going to use him at the F. He’s a guy who was really productive in high school. He’s just now getting comfortable. For so long, we just trained him at what we call our S back, which is a fullback. Now, we’re crosstraining him as an F back and what our tight end does in the hip position. We have some things and we’re going to get him the ball again.”