Carolina Panthers

‘Work’s not over,’ but RB Brandon Wegher makes Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers running back Brandon Wegher made the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent by doing “the things you need to do to make the football team,” coach Ron Rivera said.
Carolina Panthers running back Brandon Wegher made the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent by doing “the things you need to do to make the football team,” coach Ron Rivera said. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

After Brandon Wegher walked into Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, he heard a few players have their names called to go upstairs and meet with Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera.

It was cut day in Charlotte, and having your name called meant you were about to get bad news. Wegher was on the bubble, and he even admitted he thought they had just forgotten to call his name.

Instead, when he finally met with Rivera and Gettleman, he got good news.

“Congratulations,” he said they told him. “But the work’s not over.”

Wegher, an undrafted running back who went to three colleges and even gave up football for a time, is on Carolina’s 53-man roster. And he says his passion for football has never been stronger.

“I became more hungry than I’ve ever been,” he said. “I have a hunger that I’ve never experienced before. It just came to me that I want to be the best football player I can be.”

Wegher racked up 157 yards of total offense in four exhibitions along with three touchdowns – including two game-winners – as he worked his way up from the last running back on the depth chart to start training camp to a spot on the team.

But his journey started well before July in Wofford College. The muscular, 5-foot-10, 215-pound running back began his collegiate career at Iowa but left because of personal reasons. He went to Oklahoma but never played. In 2011 he attended Iowa Western but was ineligible.

He got a misdemeanor public intoxication charge while there. And the next year he was arrested on a domestic assault involving his brother, although he has said he never laid on a finger on him.

Wegher hadn’t played football for three years when he went to Morningside College in 2013. He played there for two seasons and signed as an undrafted rookie with the Panthers after an impressive minicamp.

His teammates saw his talents early on.

“He’s very explosive,” running back Fozzy Whittaker said. “The thing that always gets me is the patience that he has. He has a combination of everything. He has enough size that he’s powerful. He has enough speed that he can outrun guys. He’s elusive, quick and he can catch the ball. He’s got a lot of things going for him.”

Wegher’s 42-yard touchdown catch against the Bills in the first exhibition won the game for the Panthers. He followed it up the next week with a game-winning touchdown rush against the Dolphins.

Rivera believes Wegher can be an every-down back rather than the kind of rusher you use in certain situations. He has the size, speed and power to be in on first, second and third down.

“He did the things you need to do to make the football team,” Rivera said. “And being a young, dynamic football player it was hard to risk putting him out there (on waivers) hoping you could bring him back on the practice squad.”

That helped put Wegher above running back Jordan Todman, who was released Saturday by Carolina. Todman contributed to special teams as the backup returner, but his smaller stature made him more of a third-down back. The Panthers decided to go with the younger, more versatile back.

Wegher’s journey has been documented since rookie minicamp on NFL Network’s “Undrafted.” It’s a show that follows a handful of undrafted players around the league as they try to crack the final 53-man roster for their respective teams.

The show, in its second season, premieres Sept. 22. Of the players they followed last year, not one was on the gameday roster for a team in Week 1.

Spoiler alert: Wegher will be the first.

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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