Former Lakeside standout Mark Weidenaar was the All-America kid – the tall, athletic high school quarterback and football star. He earned All-County honors as a sophomore in 2009, while playing QB and wide receiver for the Panthers. His all-around talent was hard to miss. He could catch, run and throw. Weidenaar was a can’t-miss prospect.
That is why most area fans were very sympathetic when he tore the ACL in his left knee just before the start of his junior season in 2010. That season, Weidenaar was supposed to take over the Panthers offense as the team’s full-time QB, and it was hard not to feel bad for the young man and his misfortune.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Weidenaar worked hard to rehab his injured knee and put together a very impressive final prep season in 2011. He led the Panthers to the state playoffs, while accounting for over 2,600 yards and 27 touchdowns passing and rushing. Throw in that he could run a 4.5 forty and he seemed to have all the intangibles, it was no surprise when colleges started making scholarship offers.
In the end, Weidenaar chose to sign with Bill Curry and Georgia State University. It seemed like a perfect marriage. A raw talent with a football program still in its infancy. Most recruiting experts thought GSU was getting a possible steal in the unheralded Lakeside star.
That’s why it came as such a shock when word started to spread that Weidenaar had been kicked off the team at GSU before ever suiting up in a game for the Panthers. Sadly, there are many times when word comes down of athletes getting in trouble and it comes as no real surprise. That was certainly not the case with Weidenaar. I never imagined I would be tracking down the details on Weidenaar being booted from the Panthers team in mid-August of his freshman year. And, to be quite honestly the details were not pretty. It all culminated with Weidenaar being arrested in October of 2012 for burglary, false statements/writings, and theft by taking.
Apparently, it all stemmed from some electronics being taken from a dorm room at GSU. I, and many others, were floored. I remember thinking that Weidenaar’s career was not over, but he would have a difficult time coming back. First, he would have to admit to making some very poor decisions. He also would have to deal with the embarrassment of what occurred. Then, he still had to find another school that would give him a second chance.
Enter former Lakeside standout Brian Bratton. He had just taken a job as a wide receivers coach at North Greenville University after a solid professional football career.
It was only natural that Bratton would check in on his alma mater. He thought Weidenaar could be a perfect fit with the Crusaders. However, you also had a brand new assistant coach that would be sticking his neck out for a young man who had already been dismissed from another school’s football program. He knew that Weidenaar had the skills to help the team and compete to be the Crusader’s starting QB from day one. However, some things are more important than football. Sure, Bratton would love for Weidenaar to become a great college QB at North Greenville, but he would much rather him keep his nose clean and repair his reputation. North Greenville is actually a perfect fit for Weidenaar. At NGU, he will have a great role model to follow in fellow Lakeside product Brian Bratton, but he will also have Bratton there to look out for him.
Everyone makes mistakes, and Weidenaar is no different. He had a very bad chapter in his life, but he’s a freshman in college. His book is far from complete. I, for one, hope this book has a happy ending.