Champion of Character: Persistence Pays Off for Humboldt Senior
Ryeon Wedley always knew going to college was non-negotiable.
"I had a brother graduate from West Point and a sister that graduated from UT Knoxville," said Wedley.
Ryeon has both academic and athletic scholarship options at the next level.
"As a teacher, I saw someone who was academically driven. Driven by his family's desire for him to get a college education," said Humboldt science teacher Brian Lane.
"Just the adrenaline rush. Getting hit; hitting people,” said Ryeon when asked about what he liked best about playing football.
His athletic options appeared to be limited due to his height.
"I got ‘you're too short’ from a lot of schools," said Ryeon.
Schools like Mississippi State, MTSU and UT Martin told the 5’9 all-state fullback/linebacker he was too short to be a scholarship player.
“But it was basically just motivation," said Ryeon.
Ryeon was offered a full academic scholarship to Division III Sewanee and a starting spot on the Tiger football team. Ryeon turned it down, however, to chase his dream of NCAA Division I football. He received help and encouragement from his coach Brian Lane.
"We where at Trenton and I called a middle screen. He caught the ball and took it 80 yards for a touchdown. I turned to the coach in the booth and said Ryeon can play in the SEC. That's when I knew he was an SEC player," said Lane who is also the team’s offensive coordinator.
After several calls and emails from Coach Lane, Ryeon was invited to visit the University of Tennessee in late February and was offered a spot on the team as a preferred walk-on.
"The only difference between me and a scholarship player is scholarship money and I have my academics to assist me with that," said Wedley.
"Max Arnold from McKenzie is a preferred walk-on at UT. Coach Dooley loves him and he's earned a scholarship this year," said Lane.
Ryeon plans to follow a similar path.
"I'm going up there to earn a scholarship. That's my goal," said Ryeon.
"It's important that we give these kids in Humboldt pathways to follow. Anytime you get a guy like Ryeon who can be a role model, it's going to be phenomenal," said Lane.