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Colts Prospect Interviews: Nick Wheeler, DE, Colgate

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A popular series from last draft cycle is returning yet again at Stampede Blue. Last off-season, I interviewed over 40 prospects that could eventually be fits for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2019 NFL Draft. As a result, we were able to find out a lot about two Colts who went on to eventually be drafted by the team in Marvell Tell II and Khari Willis. This year I hope to interview even more prospects so you all can get an inside look at these player’s accomplishments and mindsets going into this next draft.

Our first prospect is defensive end Nick Wheeler from Colgate University. Colgate’s all time leader in career sacks, Wheeler is a very talented prospect who deserves more hype this draft process. We had an excellent talk below about his go-to pass rush move, which players he tries to model his game after, and what a team is getting when they draft him come April.


Background Info:

Size:

6’2” 255 pounds

Accolades:

Colgate All-Time Leader in Sacks (33 in his career)

2018 All-America Second Team (Associated Press, STATS FCS, Hero Sports)

2018 STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award Finalist

2017, 2018, 2019 All-ECAC First Team

2017, 2019 All-America Third Team (Associated Press)

2017, 2018, 2019 All-Patriot League First Team (Coaches, Phil Steele)

Senior Stats:

18 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks on the year.

Fit with the Colts:

The Colts are always looking for diamonds in the rough with small school talent. With that in mind, I could see Chris Ballard taking a look at this sack artist in the later rounds/UDFA period. He is an explosive and bendy pass rusher, two traits that the Colts value heavily in their defensive ends. They could draft him late and develop his already natural abilities into potentially becoming a solid player at the next level. The potential and production certainly is there to warrant a second look at this small school player.

Draft Projection: Day 3-UDFA


Highlights:


Interview:

ZH: How did you end up at Colgate University?

NW: So I was going through my Senior year and I had some injury issues and a lot of schools fell off. Coach Brown, Jordan Brown, was very persistent and was very committed. He came in, we talked and did a home visit then I went to visit Colgate. I fell in love from the first moment I stepped on campus.


ZH: You exploded your Sophomore season as a pass rusher and have been dominant ever since. What was the key to that breakout from you from your Freshman year to your Sophomore year?

NW: The guys in front of me my Freshman year were all Seniors and I mean Pat Afriyie was an All-American Junior so being able to learn from those guys and everything that they were able to do and be successful with and being able to incorporate that into my own game really helped. Going into my Sophomore year, I put my trust in the coach and made sure that they believed in me to get the job done and ultimately it resulted in a lot of sacks that season.


ZH: What area do you think that you’ve grown the most in throughout your four years of college?

NW: On the field, I’ve definitely improved a lot in the run game. I was really told in high school to treat every play like it was a pass play so coming to Colgate that was big for me to develop more in stopping the run. Off the field, I’d just say having the mentality of knowing what it takes to succeed. You know a lot of people can go to college and do things that student athletes can’t do so having that mentality to be able to give up those things so you can prepare to be the best you can be week in and week out.


ZH: You finish your Colgate career with 33 sacks which I believe is most in Colgate history. How does it feel to be a big part of Colgate’s history and record books after your career?

NW: It’s great. Looking back, there is a lot of rich Colgate history that dates back to 1917 with the team that went undefeated and not scored upon and won the Rose Bowl. Just to be able to have my name represented on the wall with those guys is something that is real special considering the history dates back that far.


ZH: What is your go-to rush move as a pass rusher?

NW: I see myself as a speed guy so that is the one thing I try to focus on is my speed on the edge. One thing that I’d say is my primary move is a speed chop then rip on the edge. Just trying to use my speed to get around guys and then continue to use my speed to get underneath them and hopefully they won’t be able to dip down and catch me.


ZH: What would you say is the most important trait a pass rusher can have in football?

NW: The ability to bend. If you don’t have the ability to bend, whether it is a bull rush or you are working a finesse move, it’s going to be much harder for you to get around guys. So I would say the ability to get low and use your strength around the corner makes the ability to bend the most important in being a pass rusher.


ZH: Who was the toughest offensive lineman or overall offensive player you faced in college?

NW: Toughest offensive lineman, I’d have to give to Zach Johnson from North Dakota State. Toughest offensive player overall would 100% have to be Chase Edmonds. That guy was something special especially coming out of the same league that I played in and being able to go against him for two years was amazing.


ZH: Which NFL players do you model your game after/compare yourself to?

NW: One guy I specifically try to model my game after is Von Miller. He’s a guy who is like 6’2” 250 who uses a lot of speed and quickness off the edge and bend to get underneath those big tackles. Also Dwight Freeney as a guy who was a bit on the shorter side but also had great get off, great speed, and great bend. He ultimately was one of the greatest pass rushers in NFL history.


ZH: What is my NFL team getting if they spend a draft pick on Nick Wheeler?

NW: They are getting someone who is dedicated. Someone who is focused on studying the game week in and week out. Someone who is dedicated to the team and is going to go out there and do his 1-11. That is one thing we preached at Colgate, which is going out there and doing your one individual job and trusting that the other ten players are going to do their job. They will be getting someone who is going to go out there and do their one job to the best of their ability each and every down.