University of Miami

Among Wheelers, no sibling rivalry between Miami C Jared and Maryland LT Jake

One goes by “Big Wheels.”

The other goes by “Hot Wheels” — at least to his quarterback, Stephen Morris.

They’re both extremely large offensive linemen in the Atlantic Coast Conference for UM — that’s No. 14 University of Miami for 6-5, 317-pound center Jared Wheeler and No. 25 University of Maryland for the svelte 6-7, 305-pound backup left tackle Jake Wheeler.

Each of their teams is 4-0.

Hurricane Jared and Terrapin Jake come from a big family in more than one way.

There’s Jenna, 24; Jared, who turns 23 on Thursday; Jake, 21; Joshua, 17; Jesse, 16; Julianne, 14; James 11; Jordan, 7; John, 4; and Joey, 2.

Little Jolie died in a car accident in 2007 when she was 3.

“They’re all J names because we always thought we’d just have one more and we didn’t want one to be left out,” said Kathy Wheeler, 48, who met Jim when they were both 15-year-old sophomores at Hollywood Hills High. “Gosh, we’re crazy about our kids.”

And their kids are crazy about them.

Jared, a fifth-year senior with long black locks and a bushy beard, was offered scholarships by at least 30 schools. He whittled the bunch down to Miami, Vanderbilt, Florida and Auburn before choosing his Hurricanes.

“Closer to home,” said Jared, nasty on the field but ebullient off it after earning his first career start Sept. 21 against Savannah State. He got the nod when usual starter Shane McDermott sustained a foot injury.

“I love my family and I love the U and everything this program stands for, its history and what we’re looking forward to in the future.”

McDermott returned to practice this week and is listed as a co-starter, but UM coach Al Golden raved about Jared’s play in UM’s 77-7 win against Savannah State and 49-21 win against USF. The Canes generated a combined 1,177 yards of offense in those games.

Jared graded out at 94 percent against USF, with a 100 percent finish grade. “Unbelievable, magnificent,” Golden said. “He has been so consistent. I’m very proud of him. He worked hard for this opportunity and deserves what he’s getting.

“He’s playing like a starter, not like a guy who replaced someone that got injured. He has earned at least an opportunity to start and certainly to be the sixth man in the rotation at both guards and center. He plays with a lot of energy and finishes blocks.”

Said quarterback Morris: “Me and Hot Wheels go back a long time. … He’s a smart kid. He’s done an unbelievable job — especially with his second start. I know that meant a lot for him and his family.”

Tailback Duke Johnson said Jared’s enthusiasm is contagious. “He’s a very humble guy, but you can see in his face how excited he is to be out there.”

Jared’s description of how he felt when offensive line coach Art Kehoe told him he had earned his first start: “Ecstatic would be the word.”

At USF, mom (she’s 5-8 and a former high school basketball, soccer, flag football and softball star) and dad (he’s 6-4 and 280 pounds and played high school football) brought Joey, James, Julianne and Jesse to watch Jared.

The week before, however, the family went to watch redshirt junior Jake’s Terps upset West Virginia.

“They spanked them!” Jared said of Maryland. “That was awesome. It was a good week. Maryland had a bye week this past week so we’re both 4-0 and my parents are very happy with us right now.”

This week, Jim Wheeler said, they will “divide and conquer.”

“I’m going to FSU at noon to watch Jake and Kathy is going to the Georgia Tech game at Sun Life Stadium at 3:30 to watch Jared.

“I told Jared, ‘When they call your name, go in and kick butt.’ ”

Jared, a gifted student, is a mechanical engineer major who will receive his degree in May.

Jake will earn a degree this May in American Studies and one next year in criminal justice.

Mom home schools the younger children, though Jared and Jake both played for and graduated from American Heritage in Plantation. Dad owns a business that designs and builds custom displays for tradeshows, exhibits and building lobbies.

Miami has played Maryland twice since the brothers have been competing, with each team winning once.

So, what would be the family’s dream game to attend?

Maryland vs. Miami in the ACC Championship on Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C.

Kathy and Jim know exactly who they would root for in that game.

“The offense,” they said.

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