All is ‘Wells’ that ends ‘Wells’

drew.kochanny

It’s rare that a Division II student athlete continues to a higher level of competition. Every so often though, an athlete has the superior athleticism, skills and strength of character to make it beyond college sports.

NMU senior wide receiver Fred Wells may just be one of the atypical players who rise from the D-II ranks.

For Wells, a 6-foot-1-inch 205-pound four-year starter, he has statistics to support the claim; Wells has clocked 40-yard dash times below 4.40 seconds.

As one of the fastest athletes on the team, as well as in the GLIAC, if Wells is to make a roster spot on a professional football team, his speed will most likely have something to do with it. Right now, Wells is trying to focus on the rest of this year’s football season before he looks to the future.

But being a pro is something he still keeps in the back of his mind.

“As of right now, it’s crossed my mind, but I’m more focused on finishing the season strong,” Wells said. “Then, after the season, begin to really focus on that part.”

In his career at NMU, Wells has led the team in receiving the past two seasons, and racking up 2,343 yards in the process. In 2006, Wells brought in 44 catches for 870 yards and nine touchdowns. That year, he finished second in the GLIAC in yards, and was an All-Conference selection

In 2007, Wells caught 42 passes for 724 yards and seven scores. This season, though, the numbers for Wells have been down. In seven games, he has 22 catches for 338 yards and three scores for the one-win Wildcats. Part of the reason for his slump could be the injury he endured at the start of the season.

“He had an early injury,” head coach Bernie Anderson said. “It’s just been one of those years where he’s had a hard time getting healthy.”

And there’s also been a change at quarterback with freshman Carter Kopach taking most of the snaps

In Wells’ first three seasons, he developed a strong relationship with previous starting quarterback Buddy Rivera.

“As of right now, we don’t have the connection that the quarterback and I had before,” Wells said.

But, Wells can be more versatile than simply a wideout. During his time at NMU, Wells has also excelled on the Wildcats’ special teams. This season, on top of his receiving yards, he has accounted for 789 return yards, first on the team. At the pro ranks, many young professional football players earn roster spots because of their ability to play special teams.

“He’s returned kicks and punts for us,” Anderson said. “And that’d be a possibility that they’d look for. I’d say anyone with his type of speed could be a special teams player (professionally).”

When Wells was asked if he would be willing to do anything a team asks of him to make a spot on a professional team, it didn’t take him long to think about the question: “Absolutely, yeah,” he said.

Of the 50-plus wide receivers taken in the 2008 NFL Draft, only five of them came from schools in the NCAA’s lower divisions, but many more were picked up as undrafted free agents. The pro scouts have already begun the process of keeping an eye on Wells.

“There have been a few scouts at games and practice; they came here to watch film, and practice, and the games,” Wells said.

In the last decade, the current GLIAC teams have sent five receivers to the NFL: Ruvell Martin and Glen Martinez of Saginaw, Nate Washington of Tiffin, David Kircus of Grand Valley, and Carlton Brewster of Ferris. Wells could make his name the next on the list, but he will have to get through the next three games on the Wildcats schedule before any professional aspirations can start.

This weekend, the University of Findlay comes to the Superior Dome with a conference record identical to NMU’s (1-6 GLIAC).

Wells and the Wildcats will be challenged Saturday when they face Findlay’s third ranked pass defense.