A dozen years ago, former McFarland High School athlete Tyler Wedel started to blaze the trail toward several successful high school and college football seasons. He was awarded a scholarship to play football at Northern Illinois University, where, in his sophomore year, the team earned a trip to Orange Bowl in Miami.
Before graduating, Wedel was nominated twice for the Ray Guy Award, given to the best punter in college football.
Today, Wedel is a successful financial adviser for Edward Jones in McFarland.
Sometimes, a local football hero will become a career success because of his past athletic feats. For Wedel, not many people remember him from his days on the playing field.
“That’s kind of a good thing,” said Wedel, who can get down to business with his clients and not engage in football-related conversations.
But when he talks about those days, you can still hear the excitement in his voice like he’s calling a play in the huddle. Not too many high school athletes land at NCAA Division 1 universities to play sports, and Wedel’s experiences helped build his personality and mold his work ethic.
“When you are in college sports, going with boosters and attending different events, you learn those social skills to communicate at a very high level with those individuals,” said Wedel, who graduated from McFarland in 2011 before starting his college football playing days with the Huskies.
Joining McFarland football
Wedel’s love of sports began at an early age when he and his brothers would always be outside, playing any game that involved use of a stick and ball. He caught the bug for football by attending McFarland High School games with his father.
After joining the varsity roster as a freshman, a special relationship began with Wedel and his head coach, Paul Ackley.
“Paul definitely kept me humbled, made sure I was working the hardest on the team and held me to a higher standard,” Wedel said. “Paul was willing to be flexible with our offense, and that gave me the opportunity to succeed as I did. It got my name out there and got me some notice.”
Wedel played an assortment of positions with the Spartans: quarterback, safety, kickoff returner, punt returner, placekicker and punter. As a junior, Wedel received All-Rock Valley Conference first team honors for his placekicking and punting, and was a second teamer offense at quarterback as the Spartans finished 4-1 in the Rock Valley Conference and 8-2 overall.
In 2010, his senior year, Wedel established himself as one of the best football players in the state. He completed 79-of-138 passes for 1,279 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 894 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Spartans were undefeated in conference and 10-2 overall. Wedel shared the Rock Valley’s most valuable offensive player award with offensive line teammate Derek Patten, and earned first team defense honors as a placekicker, punter and defensive back.
After high school, UW football defensive coordinator Dave Doeren moved to Northern Illinois as its new head coach and gave Wedel an opportunity to join the Huskies.
“I didn’t know I would be kicking and punting,” Wedel said. “I was just going there to try out a bunch of different spots.”
Orange Bowl bound
As a freshman, Wedel handled kickoffs and field goals for the Huskies and eventually became the team’s punter.
In his sophomore year, Northern Illinois opened the 2012 season by letting a 17-point lead slip away in an 18-17 loss to Iowa at Chicago’s Soldier Field. After that, the Huskies were unbeatable with an 8-0 finish in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and a 12-1 overall record. They capped off the season with a thrilling 44-37 overtime victory over Kent State in the Nov. 30 MAC championship game, their 12th win in a row. Two days later, the team was ranked No. 16 in the polls.
The buzz over a berth in the Orange Bowl was confirmed as NIU was headed to Miami to play No. 13 rated Florida State. Wedel said his teammates were ecstatic after hearing the news and eager to display their talents on a big stage.
“There was snow in the Midwest, and we got to practice in warm weather,” Wedel said. “Half of our guys were from that area, so they were happy to be back home. The atmosphere was great.”
The Jan. 1, 2013, game didn’t start out well for the Huskies, which trailed the Seminoles 17-3 early in the second half. But NIU fought back to score a third-quarter touchdown and cut the lead to seven. Wedel’s onside kick was recovered by NIU, and the Huskies moved the ball down to the Florida State 23-yard line. But an interception killed the drive, and the Seminoles went on to win 31-10.
After the defeat, Wedel said the team was even more determined to get back to a top-tier bowl the following season and finished 12-0 in the 2013 regular season. But the Huskies lost to Bowling Green State in the MAC championship game and then suffered a 21-14 loss to Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.
Wedel averaged 40.2 yards per punt, was 8-for-8 in extra points and converted 3-of-5 field tries.
In 2014, Wedel made 31-of-33 extra point attempts, kicked eight field goals and averaged 41 yards per punt, as the Huskies advanced to the MAC championship game and beat Bowling Green State 51-17.
The team returned to Florida for the Boca Raton Bowl, Wedel’s final college football game, but lost to Marshall 52-23.
Wedel graduated from NIU in 2015 with a degree in finance and a minor in marketing. After that, he was hired by Edward Jones.
Ackley eventually added Wedel to be a volunteer coach for the McFarland football team.
It’s been an exciting, rewarding life for Wedel, who owes his success to playing team sports. He encourages youths to follow his lead.
“Be active,” he said. “Those qualities you learn in sports transfer over to the real world. The job market is looking for those type of skill sets.”