Colt Select Georgia Tech Linebacker Philip Wheeler
INDIANAPOLIS – A long night turned into Sunday morning joy for Philip Wheeler.
Wheeler waited all day Saturday and into the night for his name to be called. Friends and family gathered at his Columbus, Ga., home for a call that never came.
On Sunday, it came from the Colts.
Wheeler, an inside linebacker from Georgia Tech, became the second player obtained by the Colts in the 2008 NFL Draft – the first of the draft's second day – when the team selected him with the 30th selection of the third round, a pick that was the 93rd overall.
"I'm just very happy, and kind of proud of myself," Wheeler said shortly after 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning, moments after his selection.
"I had been down on myself a little bit, waiting so long."
The Colts used their lone first-day selection on Arizona State offensive lineman Mike Pollak, selecting him with the 28th selection of the second round, the 59th overall.
Wheeler said "pretty much my whole family – cousins, aunts and uncles" – gathered at the home of his mother's house Saturday.
"They came back in the morning," he said. "They're loyal fans, so they're having a good time."
Still, Wheeler said Saturday night wasn't awful. "I sat here and watched a few movies," he said, laughing. "I ate a little bit and ate a little bit more. It wasn't too tough.
"I expected to go sooner," he added. "I'd been seeing mock drafts, me going late second to mid third round. I'm still happy the Colts picked me up. I can't wait to be a Colt. . . . I just want to thank the Colts and everything, everybody around me. I'm just happy to be in the situation I am."
Wheeler, a three-year starter for Georgia Tech, was originally recruited as a defensive end, moving to outside linebacker before moving inside before his junior season. He played as a freshman in 2003, redshirted in 2004, then moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2005.
A two-time second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, he finished his career seventh on the school's all-time career sacks list with 19. He had seven sacks in 2007, 10th in school history.
He also finished his career with 35 tackles for loss, the 10th-best total in career history.
The Colts last season finished the season ranked third in overall defense, second in total points allowed. Sixth-year veteran Gary Brackett, the defensive captain, is the starting middle linebacker, with third-year veterans Tyjuan Hagler and Freddy Keiaho starting on the outside.
"The (Colts') defense is already pretty good," Wheeler said. "They had a great defense last year. There's not too much they can improve with, but I think I can bring a little athleticism to them."