Thursday September 15, 2011Gators O-lineman Wenger's journey now includes back-to-back 'Scrap Iron Awards'
Updated: 1:24pm, September 15
Updated: 1:24pm, September 15
In a span of a few weeks, Dan Wenger has gone from someone few close to the Gators knew much about to the starting left guard.
Gators coach Will Muschamp gave Wenger the “Scrap Iron Award’’ for being the team’s top offensive lineman in each of Florida’s first two games.
A sixth-year senior, Wenger started his college career at Notre Dame in the fall of 2006, current Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’ second season as the Fighting Irish’s head coach.
By the time Wenger was a junior in 2008, he started every game at center. In Weis’ final season in 2009, Wenger made the transition to guard and started at left guard against Navy that season.
The 2010 season was not as kind to Wenger, who suffered a concussion in fall camp and missed his senior season.
“I don’t recall the hit. I don’t recall anything that happened,’’ Wenger said. “It was heartbreaking. It was devastating to get that news [that I couldn’t play].’’
However, Wenger applied for another year to the NCAA and was granted a sixth year of eligibility. As he looked for another school to potentially finish his career, he reached out to Florida offensive line coach Frank Verducci, his position coach at Notre Dame under Weis.
Wenger’s call led to a transfer to Florida for one more season.
He joined the Gators over the summer during voluntary workouts and once fall camp started, Wenger’s fears about not being able to play were overcome when his body responded well during two-a-days.
“That was the real true test,’’ Wenger said.
He has passed all of them ever since, including earning the starting nod at left guard over Kyle Koehne and Ian Silberman in fall camp.
“If he couldn’t play a down, he would have still helped us tremendously because he knows the offense better than all the rest of them,’’ Weis said. “He’s got very high football IQ. Even if he physically couldn’t hold up, what he was going to bring, his intangibles are through the roof.’’
During the time over the summer when coaches were prevented from having contact with the players, the 23-year-old Wenger took on the role of player-coach by helping teach his new teammates some of the intricacies of Weis’ pro-style offense.
With coaching aspirations in his future if an NFL career is unattainable, Wenger is thankful for the second opportunity with the Gators.
“This couldn’t be a better situation for me right now,’’ Wenger said. “With everything I have dealt with in the past and especially the situation I had last year, being able to be a part of Florida and the Gator family, it’s just been amazing.’’
Wenger is now ready his latest challenge – facing an SEC defensive line on Saturday when Tennessee comes to town. If Wenger earns a third consecutive Scrap Iron Award from Muschamp, he will have definitely earned it against the Vols.
Wenger was instantly impressed with the caliber of Florida’s defensive lineman in practice when he first arrived, a sign of what was to come in the SEC.
“With our guys alone, it’s a lot different than the guys we had at Notre Dame,’’ Wenger said. “As a student of the game, watching the games, you can tell the caliber of athletes the SEC has. It’s really eye-opening when you are a part of it.’’