J.J. Dielman

Desert Vista High School athlete J.J. Dielman went on to the NFL. He is currently with the Broncos.

Special to AFN

The NFL Draft got underway last Thursday with Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield going first overall to the Cleveland Browns. The league’s annual selection meeting is a familiar place for many local high school players.

Here is a look at some Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high school standouts who have been taken in the draft since 2000:

Bobby Wade is perhaps the most accomplished player in Desert Vista football history. The undersized wideout was a superstar in high school, winning a state title with the team in 1998.

“That was one of my favorite seasons playing football,” Wade said. “It was a great year; we had the opportunity to go 14-0. There were some serious games in the playoffs that were close to knocking us out. It required our team to be resilient.”

The versatile Wade went on to play at the University of Arizona, where he caught the attention of NFL scouts. Playing the game was easy, but Wade said the process leading up to the draft was exhausting.

“I remember working out with Todd Haley of the Chicago Bears. He came and threw me about 500 footballs, it felt like. I ran the 40-yard dash five times for him,” he told AFN.

“He just dragged me through a workout for about two hours. Then you have investigators calling people, asking all kinds of questions about your character. It was a roller coaster ride for me,” Haley added.

That roller coaster ride finally came to an end months later, when the Bears wound up taking him in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

Wade was surprisingly relaxed on that April day.

He recalled, “I was here in Phoenix, I had my whole family together. We played football in the yard and ran around. I didn’t stress myself out too much about it. The next day I woke up to a phone call. The phone was ringing off the hook and it was Chicago.”

The rest is football history. Wade spent seven very productive years in the pros as a receiver and dangerous return man.

Desert Vista produced a Super Bowl winner with tight end Zach Miller, who graduated in 2004. Entering college, Miller was the No. 1 TE prospect in the nation. He could’ve gone to any college he wanted, but he chose to stay close to home.

The 6-foot-5 receiving threat attended ASU and blossomed into an NFL-caliber player. Miller was taken 38th overall in the 2007 draft by the Oakland Raiders. Three years later, he caught 66 passes for 805 yards and three TDs.

But Miller’s most memorable season was the 2013 campaign he spent with the Seattle Seahawks. Along with the legion of boom, the Tempe native won the Super Bowl over the Denver Broncos.

“He was the best TE in America,” said Dan Hinds, Thunder football coach since 2002. “Zach also played defense for us, and he ended up being defensive player of the year.”

One of the most successful pro players to emerge from Mountain Pointe is Markus Wheaton. The wideout spent three years with the Pride, producing his best season as a junior. It would be his last season with the team though, as he transferred to Chandler for his senior year.

“He was a great player,” Hinds recalled. “He was a guy you had to account for when you played them.”

Wheaton’s stellar season with Chandler eventually led to a football scholarship with Oregon State. And after a very productive college career, he was picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2013 draft.

The Phoenix native signed with the Bears last offseason but was recently released and remains a free agent.

Linebacker Devon Kennard was a human wrecking ball during his playing days at Desert Vista. The 256-pounder recorded 24.5 sacks in his junior year, adding another five TDs as a tailback. His dominant showing on offense and defense helped lead the Thunder to a state semifinalist finish.

When asked if he had ever seen a defensive performance like Kennard’s, Hinds said, “We never have. It was the most impressive highlight reel that I’ve ever seen. The kid just did so many things on the field, and had a tremendous skill-set at that position.”

The heavily recruited prospect chose to play football at USC. Kennard was selected by the New York Giants in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft after a solid collegiate career. He signed a new three-year deal with the Detroit Lions back in March.

Offensive Lineman J.J. Dielman won a state title with the Thunder in 2011. He served as a team captain with DV before moving on to play college ball at Utah as an unheralded but promising prospect.

“He was barely 225 pounds his senior year. I think because of his size, he got a little overlooked,” Hinds acknowledged. “The Utah coach called me every day, saying, ‘Is he going to be big enough?’ I kept promising him that he would be big enough.”

Dielman waited until the fifth round of last year’s draft before he was chosen by the Cincinnati Bengals. He’s currently with the Denver Broncos, fighting for a spot on the team’s 53-man roster.

From what Hinds has seen of Dielman, he’s confident the lineman can make that jump to the next level.

“I think he’s got great upside. He and a couple other guys were the deciding factors of us winning that championship. He was a strong leader. I think he proved himself up at Utah; they really loved him up there,” Hinds said.

-Contact Brian Benesch at 480-898-5630 or bbenesch@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @AZBenesch

(2) comments


Markus Wheaton was recently signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. So to keep following his career please find his details and stats in Philly.

Philadelphia's head coach Doug Pederson continues to focus on explosive speed and great hands for wideout production, so to see Wheaton on the Eagles roster says a lot about what Wheaton still has left in the tank.

Congratulations Markus.


Martin Rael

Awww, they look so happy!

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