Every February, the National Football League holds its annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where team officials gauge the nation’s top college football talent. Coaches, general managers, and scouts evaluate each athlete’s “measurables,” namely his height, weight and 40-yard-dash time.
Potential draftees often see their stock rise or fall based on those three important numbers. While talent evaluators also espouse the importance of game film and All-Star performances, the measurables generally lay a foundation for whether a player has the physical tools to perform at the next level.
So while “workout warriors” quickly tend to climb a team’s draft board, other more productive players who don’t possess the ideal prototype for their positions are left in peril, hoping for a tryout to showcase their talent.
In 2009, George Washington High School quarterback Aaron Wilmer led his school’s storied football program to its third consecutive Public League Championship while earning First Team All-City honors.
Additionally, Wilmer was named First Team All-Public and Honorable Mention All-State at quarterback, despite measuring just 5 feet 10 and weighing 195 pounds, hardly ideal measurables for a field general in a day and age when signal callers tend to tower well above six feet.
In four years as a member of the football program, Wilmer’s Eagles compiled a 38-11 overall record. He finished his career with 2,457 passing yards, 541 rushing yards and 56 total touchdowns (13 rushing). At the time, Wilmer finished his career with Public League records of 43 passing touchdowns and 21 single-season touchdown passes, the latter of which was broken last season by Frankford quarterback Tim DiGiorgio’s 30 passing strikes.
Wilmer’s athletic accomplishments earned him Division I football attention; however, most recruiters’ interest centered on a position change.
“Most of the D-1 schools were straight up with me and wanted me as an athlete,” Wilmer said during a recent chat at his high school alma mater. “It’s not like they were attempting to mislead me. You could tell from the second that the coaches saw me up close that they were measuring me up.”
Wilmer let it be known from the start that he was going to play quarterback in college.
“There was no doubt in my mind that I could play that position and have success in college,” Wilmer said. “I just needed to find a good fit for my talents.”
Wilmer thought that he had found that fit at West Chester University. It wasn’t the Division I program that he had envisioned, but he was happy to be given a chance to showcase his ability at quarterback.
“I had a great connection with (West Chester) Coach (Bill) Zwaan,” Wilmer said. “He taught me a lot offensively. I just had a different timeline than the coaches had in mind for me. I have no regrets of my time spent at West Chester.”
Wilmer found himself out on the recruiting trail once again after the 2010 season, with his parents, Thomas and Tissa, assisting him every step of the way.
Together they laid out the options. Delaware Valley College, located in nearby Doylestown, had shown interest in Wilmer since his junior campaign at George Washington.
“I looked into Del Val and saw that they were a national championship contender every year,” he said. “It was close to home and they had shown interest in me for awhile. I was confident that I could step right in and contribute.”
It didn’t hurt that Wilmer hit it off right away with Aggies’ head coach Jim Clements.
“Coach Clements gave me the opportunity I was looking for,” Wilmer said. “The offense fit my talents.”
Clements felt the connection, too.
“Aaron is the prototypical hard worker,” he said. “He watches film and is routinely the last to leave the practice field.”
After Wilmer was named the starter for the first week, Clements’ decision immediately paid dividends. Wilmer was able to quickly pick up the offensive scheme and led the Aggies to a perfect 10-0 regular season mark and a playoff appearance. The team finished with an overall record of 11-1, and went two rounds into the Division III playoffs.
For the season, Wilmer connected on 189 of 319 attempts for 2,729 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also rushed for 320 yards and six scores. To cap off an impressive rookie campaign, Wilmer was named the Rookie of the Year in both the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC).
Not one to rest on his laurels, Wilmer is looking to improve on his initial collegiate success. As far as his short-term goals are concerned, Wilmer admitted, “I want to win the (Division III) National Championship. That’s always going to be my number one goal. Individually, I want to take on more of a leadership role.”
Wilmer is accustomed to winning. A Northeast Philadelphia native, he first tasted athletic success at Baldi Middle School on Verree Road.
He took home the Male Athlete of the Year award in eighth grade, and success followed after he enrolled at George Washington. Not only was he a tremendously accomplished football player, but Wilmer also took home First Team All-Public honors in baseball after his senior campaign.
The accomplished, do-it-all Wilmer comes from a family of athletic talent. His older brothers, Thomas and Damien, were both great athletes in their own right while at Washington and went on to attend Millersville and Temple University, respectively. Thomas was a First Team All-City defensive back in 2005, while Damien earned Third Team honors at wide receiver in 2007.
Aaron credits his brothers with helping him become the player that he is today. In addition to regular off-season workouts, he keeps his arm conditioned by throwing to them three times a week.
Despite his commendable athletic accomplishments, Wilmer has remained grounded and true to his roots at George Washington.
“I talk on the phone with Coach Mac (Offensive Coach John McAneney) at least once a week,” Wilmer said. “He is like a second father to me.”
Legendary Washington head football coach Ron Cohen is another person who Wilmer holds in high regard. After speaking briefly with Cohen, it is quickly evident that the sentiment is reciprocated.
“I’m very happy for Aaron,” Cohen said. “He stuck to his guns and has made a name for himself as a quarterback. The whole George Washington family is proud.”
Wilmer has a lot of football yet to play. Coming into his sophomore season a Del Val, he hopes to continue to build on his rookie season success. The sports management major wants to keep proving the naysayers wrong. He understands better than most that it’s not the measurables that define a good football player; rather, Wilmer wants scouts to measure his ability and production.
“I still have a lot left to prove,” he said.
Wilmer dreams of being given an opportunity at the NFL level some day.
“I would love a tryout in the NFL,” he said. “If that didn’t work out, I would look into the Canadian Football League.”
Wilmer has made the most of his own measurables. While he does not possess the size that scouts covet, he does possess many of the intangibles required for success.
In the end, Wilmer showed that a proven winner who simply refuses to be overlooked cannot be held down. ••EndFragment