Perhaps William “Cade” Weldon’s biggest break came the day record-breaking University of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya announced he was forgoing his senior season to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
Perhaps it will be his biggest hurdle.
Weldon, the son of Florida State’s 1991 Heisman Trophy runner-up William “Casey” Weldon, is already on the UM campus working out and taking classes as he learns the offense, prepares for spring practice and begins his quest to win the starting job of the most important position in football.
“I’m excited about getting here,” Weldon, 18, told the Miami Herald by phone when he arrived in Coral Gables earlier this month. “If Brad had ended up choosing to stay, then I could sit there and learn from him for a whole year and get prepared.
“But this way it’s more fun. I get to finally go at it for a starting job.”
National Signing Day is Wednesday, and Weldon, a consensus three-star prospect who graduated in December from Tampa Jefferson High, is one of 10 early enrollees to get a jump on school and football before the remaining signees arrive during the summer.
Weldon’s other incoming competitor, four-star Ocala Vanguard quarterback N’Kosi Perry – a highly rated dual threat – won’t arrive until the summer.
“I think we can be really good,” said the 6-3, 204-pound Weldon, primarily a pocket passer who can also run. “Coach [Mark] Richt is heading the turnaround and I know the guys in my class coming in are really fired up.”
Weldon threw for 3,135 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions his senior season, with another 368 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing. But his arrival in Coral Gables is something no one in his family would have imagined when he was growing up a diehard Seminoles fan.
Born in Tampa, he moved the summer before second grade to Tallahassee, where his mom and dad graduated high school and later graduated from FSU. He moved back to Tampa halfway through sixth grade.
“I went to every single FSU game for the five years we lived there,” he said. “It’s a little weird, and not exactly what I pictured, but Coach Richt absolutely changed the whole dynamic of everything. He’s not only a great coach, he cares about shaping you as a man off the field. I love the campus and I love being a Hurricane.”
Richt was Casey Weldon’s offensive coordinator at FSU and the families have know each other for years.
“So far, so good,” said Casey Weldon, 47, who played eight seasons in the NFL and owns a water mitigation company. “He absolutely loves it there. I have to remind him of my phone number.”
Casey Weldon said his son looks forward to “blazing his own trail,” though the dad is disappointed Kaaya left. “I would have loved Cade to be around him and have a standard set that was very high.
“But had Cade gone to Florida State, there would be constant comparison. I told him hopefully his class will be the one to turn it around again at Miami. When I came to FSU in 1987 the next 14 years we finished in the top five. When it starts again, man, it’s a lot of fun.”
Among the schools that offered Weldon scholarships were Kentucky, South Carolina, Wake Forest– and UM, he said, when James Coley was the offensive coordinator during Weldon’s sophomore spring.
But FSU never offered Weldon a scholarship, possibly because he tore the ACL and MCL of his right knee in the opening game of his junior season in 2015. As a sophomore he threw for 2,103 yards and 20 touchdowns, with nine interceptions, and ran for another 366 yards and four touchdowns.
His completion percentage that year: 66.5.
“One of the things that jumps out is his footwork,” former UM quarterback Steve Walsh said of Weldon in a UM video evaluating the early enrollees. “He was taught well at a young age. With a young quarterback, I’m always looking for their rhythm. He’s balanced, has a good base as he lines up to throw. So many young quarterbacks want to hop around.
“He’s athletic enough to make plays with his feet, deadly enough to make pays with his arm.”
Weldon knows that his injury “played a huge part” in stalling his career and the recruiting process. “A lot of schools wanted to make sure my sophomore season wasn’t a fluke,” he said. “But there were positive aspects I grew from. It taught me how much I love football and how it can be taken away from you in a second. It taught me to work a lot harder.”
Weldon’s mother, Lori, is a Realtor who described Cade as “very social, but not arrogant or obnoxious. Growing up with three older sisters has kept him grounded. He’ll make a good husband one day.”
And, hey, now this Hurricane is doing his own laundry.
“He took a selfie walking down the hall carrying his laundry basket,” Lori Weldon said. “The caption under the text: ‘I guess this means I have to do my own laundry, now, huh?”’
Mom’s reply: “Yup, you’re a big boy now, Cade. #’U’DoYourOwnLaundryAtThe’U.”’
One milestone at a time.
UM football 2017 commitments
POSITION: NAME, HEIGHT/WEIGHT, SCHOOL
QB: Cade Weldon, 6-3/204, Tampa Jefferson
RB: Robert Burns, 5-11/216, Miami Gulliver Prep
ATH: DeeJay Dallas, 5-10/205, Brunswick (Ga.) Glynn Academy
OL: Navaughn Donaldson, 6-8/375, Miami Central
OL: Zach Dykstra, 6-6/305, Spirit Lake (Iowa)
TE: Brian Polendey, 6-6/218, Denton (Texas) Guyer
DB: Amari Carter, 6-0/188, Palm Beach Gardens
LB: Bradley Jennings, Jr., 6-0/231, Jacksonville Sandalwood
LB: Waynmon Steed, 5-11/203, Miami Central
DE: Jonathan Garvin, 6-4/222, Lake Worth
QB: N’Kosi Perry, 6-3/170, Ocala Vanguard
WR: Evidence Njoku, 6-4/205, Wayne (N.J.) Hills
OL: Kai-Leon Herbert, 6-4/279, Plantation American Heritage
OL: Corey Gaynor, 6-3/275, Marjory Stoneman Douglas
OL: Zalon’tae Hillery, 6-5/280, Brunswick (Ga.) Glynn Academy
K: Zach Feagles, 6-3/215, Ridgewood (N.J.)
DE: Deonte Johnson, 6-5/240, Sacramento (Calif.) Luther Burbank
DE: Jonathan Ford, 6-4/246, Fort Lauderdale Dillard
DB: Trajan Bandy, 5-10/178, Miami Columbus
ATH: Derrick Smith, 6-1/195, Jacksonville Trinity Christian Academy
LB: De’Andre Wilder, 6-2/204, Miami Carol City