August 18, 2013

Steve Solloway: Wiechman making great second effort

The former Bonny Eagle and Southern Connecticut State University standout is putting his life back together after serving time for theft.

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Maine Sabers running back John Wiechman, a former Bonny Eagle and Southern Connecticut State University standout, served time in prison for theft and now is aiming to be a comeback player in the far more important game of life itself.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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John Wiechman

The coach's wife had been tipped off in the spring of 2011 by her daughter, a student at SCSU who heard talk that police were looking at Wiechman for thefts. Carol Cavanaugh called Wiechman. "I told him he better not do something dopey, don't be stupid. All he said was 'Yes, ma'am.' I knew he had financial issues. He could have asked for help. Ten days later he was arrested."

Friday, Wiechman said the thefts began as a crime of opportunity and escalated. He had a very small chance of being noticed by the NFL, but it was a chance. He was devoting time to training and not working. He wasn't thinking of his victims or the consequences. He does now. He learns soon how he begins making court-ordered restitution.

Friday, Wiechman rushed from his job to a doctor for treatment of a torn groin muscle that will sideline him from running the football for the Maine Sabers, a Portland-based semi-pro team. He's played in four games.

"For those two, three hours, I can feel good about myself again."

Sabers owner Steve Goodrich, not knowing Wiechman was "indisposed," had contacted him about playing. When Goodrich learned of Wiechman's history, he didn't back away.

Goodrich recently founded PowerPay, a local provider of credit card payment processing. He's has the means to help people.

"(John's) self-esteem and confidence were understandably low," said Goodrich. "He let a lot of people down who had trusted him more than once. (This) was an opportunity to create a new circle of friends with a group of individuals who would only judge John based on their experiences with him here and now."

Kendrick Ballantyne, a Sabers coach, gave Wiechman a job with his company, Optimum Inc., involved in real estate management. Wiechman was a couple of classes away from his degrees in marketing and computer science before his arrest, but learned new skills quickly.

As far as Wiechman's past was concerned, "He totally came clean," said Ballantyne, a former tight end at UMaine and Northeastern. "He's never said, 'I got screwed.'

"I've had people say, 'Be careful of this kid.' I don't see it. ... I know he has huge regrets and he lives on that. I've told him every single day, try to be a better person and people eventually will see that."

In his mind, Wiechman has a list of people he owes a visit to apologize. Rich and Carol Cavanaugh were among the first. "I make no excuses for what he did," said Carol. "This experience clarified the boundaries of how to live his life.

"I told John, 'You've got to stop believing everyone sees you as a criminal. You've got to believe in yourself so others can believe in you.' It's a heavy weight.

"He can carry it."

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

 

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