Clovis High linebacker Cade Wheeler (26) and La Cueva’s Jeron McIntosh (10) dive on a fumbled kick return at Leon Williams Stadium on Friday, September 8, 2006. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
Winning a Class 5A state championship is not the only thing that motivates Clovis High senior linebacker Cade Wheeler.
His bloodline drives him even more.
Wheeler’s father, Mike, was a part of the Wildcats’ 1978 state championship team and his brother, Zeke, was on Clovis’ last state title squad in 2001.
It is from his family that Wheeler learned to love and appreciate the game. Now he wants to continue the Wheelers’ championship legacy.
“Ever since I was little, the first thing I ever played was football,” Wheeler said, “practically ever since I could walk.”
Wheeler, in his third year on the varsity team, leads the Cats in tackles. He said success on defense also comes from his lineage.
“Offense is real fun, but defense is what my dad and my brother played the most,” he said. “That’s kind of where I get it.”
The tradition Wheeler follows has also translated into a strong leadership role on the field, Clovis line coach Bruce Scroggins said.
“Cade’s a lot of fun to be around, and he makes the big plays for us,” Scroggins said. “He tries to get us in the right defense most of the time.”
Wheeler’s leadership skills also come from family.
“It’s kind of something, again, my dad and my brother always pushed on me,” he said. “I don’t really see myself as a great leader; I just help people when I can. I’m not really that vocal, but I try to lead by action.”
Wheeler’s main drawback is his lack of size. At 5-foot-9, 182 pounds, he is asked to play positions typically assigned to taller, beefier players.
“My brother was about the same size as me,” Wheeler said. “He showed me how to sidestep guys.
“It’s all a matter in your head. You have to believe you can get it done.”
As for the delay to the playoffs, caused when Las Cruces High parents took legal action to protest forfeits which would keep the Bulldawgs out of the playoffs, Wheeler said the Cats consider Friday’s quarterfinal match-up with No. 5 Sandia at Leon Williams Stadium as a bowl game.
“I think the three weeks (off) is actually kind of good,” he said. “We can rest our injuries and everything.”
After losses by the Cats in the last two 5A championship games, Wheeler yearns to get the elusive title.
“I’ve lost two state championships my past two years,” he said. “It seems kind of obvious I want to make something happen.”
But even if a title eludes his grasp, Wheeler said there is more to life than football.
He said he would like to study business in college, as well as play football. Wheeler has already received letters from regional schools such as Abilene Christian and McMurray University, and from as far away as Colby College in Maine.
Yet, he said life would not stop if he chooses to walk away from the football field.
“Wherever I can go play ball, that’d be fine,” he said. “But it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t play football.”