Written by Don Ratzlaff Thursday, 27 December 2007 03:28
| Wade Weibert has pushed himself to succeed after leaving Hillsboro High School for Butler County Community College. Now he anticipates the next chapter of his athletic career at Kansas State, the
fulfillment of his dream.
If Wade Weibert dreams in color, you can be sure his imagination has a distinctly purple hue. And within the past month, two of the biggest athletic dreams of this former Hillsboro High School football standout have come true.
On Dec. 10, Weibert and his purple-clad Butler County Community College teammates were officially declared co-national champions of the National Junior College Athletic Association by routing previously undefeated and No. 1 ranked Snow College, 57-26, at the Top of the Mountains Bowl in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 1.
Then last week, Weibert’s reality turned an even deeper shade of purple. He realized his boyhood dream by signing a letter intent to play NCAA Division I football at his beloved Kansas State University.
Weibert is in the process of transferring to KSU for the spring semester so he can begin winter conditioning and participate in spring ball as an offensive lineman with Coach Ron Prince’s Wildcats.
“Everything is moving so fast right now it’s hard to keep up,” said Weibert, whose speed and quickness for a man 6-feet, 5-inches and 290 pounds helped rank him 46th on Rivals.com list of top 50 junior college players in the nation.
Forging a path
Completing his senior season at HHS in fall 2005, Weibert had almost given up his dream.
“Out of high school I didn’t have any D-1, or even any legitimate Division II, offers or looks,” he said. “So the only option for me was NAIA.
“I wasn’t even going to go juco. I had kind of given up on myself as far as being a Division I athlete. I didn’t put on the weight I needed and didn’t know how legitimate a shot I had.”
Weibert was considering Tabor College or Bethel College when he was contacted by Troy Morrell, who has won four national championship as head coach at Butler County.
“I didn’t know who the guy was, or what kind of tradition Butler had, or of all the championships they had won,” Weibert said. “But that looked really good to me.
“I decided to give Butler a shot because I could win championships there. Also, he convinced me to give Butler a shot because Division II would always be there after I’m out. If nothing else I’d still have the offers I had, or more—which is what ended up happening.”
A challenging transition
Weibert said the transition from high school to national-calibre junior college football was significant.
“The speed and the size is so much greater,” Weibert said. “In high school, it seems like sheer size will get you so much success.
“So I came from Hillsboro, where I was the biggest, and I get to Butler, where I’m suddenly middle-sized if not a little under-sized for the offensive line right away.”
The difference in speed was every bit as dramatic.
“I was going against defensive tackles that were as fast as some of the skill guys I saw in high school,” he said.
During his freshman season, Weibert found himself playing backup to All-American Chet Hartley, who moved into a starting role at right guard for Kansas University this fall.
“I was totally OK with it because I learned things from him and I talked to him about how it is,” Weibert said.
Though Weibert beefed up to from 280 pounds coming out of high school to 311 following his freshman season at Butler, he discovered bigger wasn’t necessarily better.
“I was never really the strongest guy,” Weibert said. “But this year I was able to play with guys I knew were physically stronger than I was because I used leverage and technique. That’s all stuff I had to learn at Butler.”
It didn’t hurt either that K-State coaches weren’t looking to recruit incredible hulks.
“They said their prototype for an offensive lineman is about 6-5, 290 to 300. Right now I’m sitting at a lean 290, so I have some extra weight I could put on if I wanted to. But they told me not to gain or lose weight.”
Speed and agility is what caught the eye of D-1 recruiters.
“I could get in the open field with a linebacker and I could block him,” Weibert said. “I think it’s getting more common, but it’s kind of a rarity yet for an offensive lineman to get out and block a corner (back), a safety and people like that.”
Super sophomore season
As Weibert’s sophomore season at Butler progressed, so did the interest from Division 1 coaches. He ended up getting offers from K-State, North Carolina State and Middle Tennessee State, but also had conversations with South Florida, Baylor, Boise State and Marshall.
“In the back of my head I always wanted to be a Wildcat, but there was an off chance I might end up somewhere else playing in a different part of the country,” he said.
Of course, Weibert’s season peaked at the in Utah. The championship game was memorable in almost every way possible.
“In the first half we were playing in blizzard conditions, which actually was one of my highlights of the year—it was so miserable,” he said.
“In the second half, it stopped, so we got the field cleared off. That allowed our skill players to run as fast as they normally could, so the second half was really good for us.”
It’s taken time for Weibert to absorb what he and his teammates accomplished.
“It feels good now, but at the time, it didn’t sink in,” he said. “Honestly, it felt like just another win—but with a whole lot more pictures afterward.”
Even though Butler ripped the previously ranked No. 1 team on its home field, NJCAA officials decided Butler would officially share its national title with Mississippi Gulf Coast, which finished as the only other undefeated team in the country.
“It’s just frustrating because we beat six ranked teams throughout the year, and we beat the No. 2 offensive and defensive team in the country in their element,” Weibert said.
“As far as we’re concerned, we’re the national champions and that’s what we’re going to call ourselves. We’re not going to talk about Mississippi and they’re probably going to do the same thing about us.”
As frosting on the cake, Weibert received numerous post-season honors, including first team all-conference, first team all-region and, most recently, first team NJCAA All-American.
“I don’t think about it a lot,” Weibert said of the honors. “When I want to feel good about myself, I’ll go to the Internet and check it out. It’s nice to be able to look back and know people thought of me as being that good.”
Same guy, new resolve
Weibert said his amazing advancement in the college football world has not changed who he is at the core.
“I’ve talked to some people who worried that I had changed,” he said. “But I’ve talked to my parents, and they all say I’m the same Wade. I’ll still go out of my way to do whatever for someone.
“I really don’t like to talk about myself very much, I still hold people above me,” he added. “That’s kind of the way I was raised, and that’s one thing I never lost (at Butler).”
But Weibert understands the significance of what he has accomplished so far—and what it has taken to accomplish it.
“Don’t listen to the skeptics,” he said. “There’s always going to be negative people who are going to try to tell you that you can’t do it. I know for sure that I had a few people who doubted me throughout this whole thing.
“One thing that got me through was my family and the people around the community who always encouraged me to go for it. There were days at Butler when I wanted to quit, I didn’t think it was fun anymore.
“The thing is, if you want something, you have to go get it. Coach Morrell always said if you want it bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
“Doing whatever it takes may mean you’ll be on your own—you may have to get up and train on your own every morning, you might have to get up and lift (weights) by yourself, you might have to get up and run by yourself.
“Athletes have to be self-motivators,” he added. “If anyone out there wants to be a Division I basketball or football player, then you have to go out and do whatever it’s going to take.”