Athens has had its ups and downs as a young team in 2021. Throughout the trials, Landon Wheatley has been a young star for the Bulldogs in his first season as the full-time starting quarterback.
“You can just tell he’s more comfortable,” coach Nathan White said. “He’s starting to really embrace [the position] and kind of enjoy that spotlight.”
Wheatley has completed 66-of-105 passes for 11 touchdowns against two interceptions in his first five starts of the season. The junior has proved he is fit for the position, and his leadership has excelled even when challenges rise up to meet him.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, so they tend to drop their heads sometimes,” Wheatley said. “As long as you keep their heads up, we’ll be alright.”
For Wheatley, playing with a young team hasn’t always been easy. Many of the players haven't had much experience with football at the high school level and the changes it brings to the speed of the game. Wheatley has learned from those above him to become a guide. When he was younger, older players pushed the underclassmen to improve. Wheatley picked up on their leadership methods, which has helped shape him to become who he is today.
Like his other teammates, Wheatley has experienced his fair share of play on both sides of the ball. He’s not only starting quarterback, but he can also turn around to play strong safety on defense. On the defensive side of the ball, he‘s made 19 tackles and one interception. It might be an uncommon sight to see a quarterback playing defense for some, but Wheatley sees the benefits it brings for him. He doesn't have much downtime, so he never gets too relaxed on the sideline.
The young quarterback has had support growing into the leader and player he is both on and off the field. Wheatley’s parents and family have been some of his biggest supporters, but his relationship with White has flourished.
“I’m pretty close with coach White,” Wheatley said. “He’s always getting on me to watch the film, sending me stuff, sending me messages [with] what we’re doing, what film to watch and what to pay attention to.”
On the other side, White notices only improvement from his starting quarterback.
“[He’s] starting to ask more questions and understand the defenses that we are playing,” White said. “It’s been great to see that.”
Although this season hasn’t provided Athens with the results it wants, there is still time left for improvements to be made. Wheatley looks forward to final three conference games on Athens’ schedule. He knows what the team can accomplish with the time it has left and what it will take to get there. There's still a chance for Athens to win the Tri-Valley Conference-Ohio, and Wheatley wants his teammates to keep their heads up and win out.
There is plenty for Wheatley to look forward to in his future at Athens. His leadership will help him to grow personally and build chemistry with an Athens team that is trying to find ways to win and work well together. It may take some time, but Wheatley has a bright future ahead of him.
“I’m proud of him,” White said. “He’s gonna be a really good quarterback.”