Ball State the choice for Vernon Hills' Wiegold
When he was smaller, though not smaller than his twin brother, Jackson Wiegold thought small when it came to his college-football goals. He envisioned himself playing at a small college.
That was only last year, mind you.
Then the inside linebacker had a monster-sized season for Vernon Hills. Then he got big, due to weight-room work. Then the pandemic hit --- a big deal --- and then he sent out a highlight film.
Wiegold became a large target of college coaches in early spring.
Last week, the incoming senior made big news, announcing on Twitter that he accepted a scholarship to Ball State University. Head coach Mike Neu's Cardinals, members of the Mid-American Conference, were the only NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision school to offer Wiegold, who also had an offer from Western Illinois and five other schools.
"Early on in the process (last year) I was thinking I would go to like a D-III school," Wiegold said. "When (the coronavirus) picked up, a lot of coaches were inside and they had all of this time, so they were looking at a lot of film. That's why my stock rose."
Starting in April, in just more than a month's time, Wiegold landed six offers, including one from Ball State.
"I knew Ball State was probably right for me right at the start," Wiegold said. "It's a full ride. It's a hard thing to pass up. The coaches there were really genuine. Tyler Stockton, my position coach (defensive coordinator/inside linebackers), is a great guy. He talked to me basically on a weekly basis, just seeing how I was doing and checking up. We'd go over plans, go over their practices, stuff like that. I just really got a good feel for them as a program. It was the best choice for me."
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Wiegold was listed at 6-0 and 180 pounds on Vernon Hills' roster last fall. He led the Cougars in tackles with 75.5, including 28 solos and 10.5 TFLs.
"Jackson has worked extremely hard to become a scholarship athlete," VH coach Bill Bellecomo said. "He approaches every practice and workout as an opportunity to get better. I would say he is an old-school linebacker who is extremely aggressive in the box. He plays downhill but still has the speed to chase down a running back in the open field or drop into coverage."
Bellecomo adds that his phone started blowing up in early March with college coaches interested in Wiegold, who started at inside linebacker as a sophomore as well.
"He is only going to get better at the next level," Bellecomo said. "He will be a solid MAC player."
Wiegold sports a 3.85 GPA and says he wants to study something business-related at BSU. He visited the Muncie, Ind., campus a couple of times on his way to baseball tournaments and saw Ball State's Miller College of Business. The fact that he wasn't drawing a lot of interest from college football coaches allowed him to focus on academics.
"Football wasn't really wasn't the main priority in my life," said Wiegold, one of three kids of Keith and Joan. "Once the junior tape got out, I got a bunch of phone calls. Things started to change really quick for the better. It was exciting."
Pandemic or no pandemic, Wiegold wanted to make his college choice before his senior season.
"I've had teammates who have gone through the recruiting process during senior year and it can be detrimental to the team," Wiegold said. "I'm a leader on my team, and I want to make sure that I'm 100% dialed in on the season and not have to worry about recruiting."
If there is a football season, Vernon Hills is positioned to have success. The Cougars' other returning players include tight end Justin Morris, running back/linebacker Ryan Mann and wide receiver Jake Pieper. Jackson's fraternal twin, Sam, is a 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback.
"Sam's younger by nine minutes," Wiegold said. "I tell him every day."