Colton Wheeler hopes to play for a state championship and earn a nomination to the Naval Academy
HOCKINSON — One of the biggest meetings of Colton Wheeler’s life will be Dec. 2.
Fortunately, it is in the evening.
Because Colton Wheeler is hoping to be playing in the most important football game of his life earlier that day.
There are very few breaks on the daily schedule of a student-athlete who believes education comes first but also plays three sports for his school. He is accustomed to having to do a lot of different things on the same day.
So come Dec. 2, he is hoping his congressional interview to receive a nomination to the United States Naval Academy is the second of two very important events in his life.
Wheeler is the starting middle linebacker and running back for undefeated Hockinson. The Hawks have reached the Class 2A state quarterfinals for the third year in the past four seasons, but this time they believe they have a shot to go all the way to the championship game.
Hockinson will take on Liberty at 4 p.m. Saturday at Battle Ground’s District Stadium in the quarterfinals.
Should the Hawks win Saturday and again in the semifinals to make it to the Week 14, the title game is scheduled for the Tacoma Dome at 10 a.m. that Saturday. Then he has a meeting scheduled with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler that evening in Vancouver.
Wheeler, always planning ahead, actually had the congressional meeting rescheduled for after 5 p.m. just in case that football game happens.
“I’ve always wanted to go in the military. It’s been a dream since I was a kid. Academics are really important to me, too. I always had a feeling I wanted to make an impact on the world, be involved in something bigger than just myself,” Wheeler explained. “When I saw the academy, that’s when I realized I could be in the military and get my education, and some of the most influential people have come from the academies.”
Wheeler visited the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., this past summer, “to live the life” the midshipmen live for a week.
“The camaraderie they have is incredible,” Wheeler said. ‘They come from all over the country, but they are like family.”
That is important to Wheeler. He is close to his blood family. He is close to his family on the football field, the wrestling mat, and the baseball diamond.
Wheeler has completed his application to the Naval Academy and is hoping for the nomination. Still, he said, less than 10 percent who apply actually attend the academy. Wheeler also is applying for ROTC scholarships.
In other words, he has a plan.
Rick Steele, the Hockinson football coach, said it was a joy to write a letter of recommendation for Wheeler. Steele noted Wheeler’s relationship with his parents.
“If you have a good family atmosphere, you will fit in anywhere in a team-type atmosphere,” Steele said. “When you go to a service academy, that’s a team atmosphere.”
The coach also noted Wheeler’s drive.
“What does goal setting mean? What is the track?” Steele asked. “He knows.”
Wheeler’s actions are good for a team, too. But he is not loud around the Hawks.
“He’s quiet. He doesn’t say much,” Steele said. “When he does talk, the heads whip around. ‘Colton’s talking. Let’s listen to him.’”
Wheeler agreed with that assessment.
“I”m not real vocal. I can be, when I need to,” he said. “I know the underclassmen are looking at the upperclassmen. If you’re working hard, they’re going to work hard. Lead by example is basically what I do.”
Wheeler was voted first-team, all-league as a linebacker from the coaches in the 2A Greater St. Helens League.
“I love being able to hit people, and it’s legal,” Wheeler said with a smile.
His favorite type of play is getting to the quarterback and running back at the “mesh point,” as the handoff is taking place.
“You feel unstoppable,” Wheeler said.
That pretty much sums up Hockinson’s season to date. The Hawks, who are 11-0, have outscored their opponents by an average score of 46-11. They have played one close game all season, and even in that one, they pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 49-27 victory.
The team gets a lot of attention for its high-scoring offense known for its incredible passing.
The defense, though, has been just as dominant. The Hawks defense has given up one touchdown or fewer in six of their past seven games.
The Hawks are looking for more gems on offense and defense for a few more games.
“It crazy to think, in a month, I’m not going to be playing with these guys anymore,” Wheeler said. “Every play, we’re playing for each other. We’ve all got the same goal in mind. We all have our jobs to do.”
It is that type of precision that makes a team work.
In sports. In the military.
Wherever life takes Colton Wheeler.