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Ironically, Wheatley's attitude was never questioned prior to his arrival in New York. According to his college coach, Gary Moeller, Wheatley was a good student (he majored in education) and "a nice kid, nonsmoker, non drinker." Moeller's only issue with the running back was his commitment to football, since he divided his time between the Wolverines' gridiron and track programs. "But the problems he's having are a mystery to me," said Moeller, who is now an assistant coach with the Detroit Lions. , he wasn't a jerk or a big pain in the butt for us. He was a nice person with a lot great qualities. He wasn't an outstanding practice player, but he was a good worker. On the field, I've seen him do things at the [college] level above what he's doing now."
"The Giants have always scrutinized their draft picks extensively; that's why we went with him," Young said. "All of us felt he would make a difference on the field sooner or later. I like him and I hope things break for him. I don't want to second-guess the coaches, but my personal feeling is that I wish he could get on the field. I was hoping he'd get there this year. I still think the skill level is there."
But it's the coach's decision that counts, and Fassel has bristled when ever he's been asked whether the running back could help the Giants' struggling offense. Many of his team mates, however, feel Wheatley can make a difference.
"He works hard in practice and runs hard," said veteran wide receiver Chris Calloway, himself a Michigan alum. "That's all you can ask of a guy. It's been hard to get him in, but I think Tyrone deserves a shot."
If he doesn't get one this year, Wheatley may be the running back of the future that never was. Even though he still has one year remaining on a five-year, multimillion dollar contract, many around the league feel that the Giants will leave him unprotected in next spring's NFL expansion draft, meaning that he could be carrying the ball for the new Cleveland Browns in 1999. Wheatley's agent, Joel Segal, who refused to comment directly on the rumors, did tell the Voicethat "if Tyrone doesn't have the opportunity to play with the Giants, we'd welcome the opportunity to get a fresh start."
After this season, many wearing Giants blue could use one.