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Avengers sign defensive specialist Damen Wheeler

December 3, 2002 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I) - Los Angeles Avengers News Release

LOS ANGELES -- In yet another offseason move to improve defensively, the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League have signed former NFL defensive back Damen Wheeler, head coach Ed Hodgkiss announced today.

Wheeler, who played in five games last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars, will be a defensive specialist for the Avengers. While with the Jaguars, he was used extensively as a nickel back and on special teams. Wheeler recorded a total of 12 tackles (11 unassisted) for Jacksonville in 2001.

"We brought Damen in for a private workout and he really excelled," said Hodgkiss, who led the Avengers to an 8-6 record and No. 5 seed in the AFL playoffs last season in his first year with the club. "He has tremendous credentials and a great deal of athletic ability. We think he's going to have a bright future in the AFL and are looking forward to him doing some great things. Our focus in the offseason was to upgrade our defense and Damen's signing is a big piece in doing that."

Wheeler (5-foot-9, 180 pounds) was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft, but was among the final cuts prior to the season. In the spring of 2001, he started 10 games for the New York/New Jersey Hitmen of the XFL, recording 42 tackles and three interceptions. Before joining the Jaguars later in 2001, Wheeler participated in training camp with the St. Louis Rams, but was once again among the final cuts.

A four-year letterman at the University of Colorado (1996-99), Wheeler played in 40 games for the Buffaloes, starting in 31 of them. In his collegiate career, he compiled 137 tackles, eight interceptions, two sacks and forced three fumbles. Wheeler earned All-Big 12 Conference honors three times and also holds the Buffalo record for passes deflections with 39.

Wheeler attended Valley High School (Sacramento, Calif.), where he played tailback and set school records with 193 carries for 2,284 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior in 1995. He earned USA Today honorable mention All-USA honors and also lettered in basketball and track & field.

Along with his wife Shannon, and their two sons Damen and Jaiden, and daughter Lauren, Wheeler currently resides in his hometown of Sacramento.

The Avengers' signing of Wheeler is the latest in a series of defensive improvements, which includes the hiring of veteran AFL defensive coordinator Doug Kay and the free agent signing of second team All-Arena lineman Mike Ulufale, who has had 11 ½ sacks in the past three seasons with the San Jose SaberCats.

Avenger season tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling 1-888-AVENGERS or online at www.laavengers.com. The 2003 season kicks off on Sunday, Feb. 2, at STAPLES Center versus the New Jersey Gladiators.

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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