Alexandria man rises to the Fantasy Football Gridiron ChallengeDavid Wegner holds off all challengers to win a national Fantasy Football competition
By: By Eric Morken, Sports Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
Fantasy sports have transformed the way fans watch sporting events.
None has done more to capture the intrigue of fans than fantasy football. Millions of people participate in leagues made easy by the Internet. Most are done for money and bragging rights among friends, family or co-workers.
That was exactly the case for Alexandria’s David Wegner. Wegner, a 32-year-old husband and father of four, has been playing fantasy football with members of his family for years. This past season, his dedication finally paid off in a big way.
Wegner joined the Gridiron Challenge on ESPN.com with a group of coworkers this season. At the beginning of the year, he was one of more than 250,000 people in the challenge. By the end of the season, he was the one.
Wegner dominated his work league and finished first on a national level in the Gridiron Challenge. He amassed 2,179 points to edge out the nearest competition by four points.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Wegner said. “I played for a lot of years with my family just for fun. Now to end up number one on a national level, it was pretty exciting.”
The Gridiron Challenge is different from most leagues in that there is no draft to open the season. Players put together their teams under a salary cap on a week-to-week basis. The salary value for each NFL player fluctuates as the season progresses, based on their performance.
That made things pretty hectic for Wegner as he tried to assemble a team every week that he thought gave him the best chance to win.
Wegner went with his gut feeling for most of the season, based on matchups that he felt benefited certain players.
That strategy helped him rise in the rankings for weeks. It was not until late in the season, when he took the national lead for the first time, that he let the pressure get to him.
Wegner went to the experts for help at that point. He did a lot of research and read ESPN analyst opinions on who to start and who to sit. That week turned out to be the only time he finished with less than 100 points this season.
“It got really nerve wracking,” he said. “The pressure kind of got to me then, and I had the worst week I had all year and dropped back down to outside the top 10.”
After that, Wegner went back to what got him there. That strategy worked as he climbed his way back up the rankings and into the top spot with one week remaining.
Wegner took a 16-point lead into the final weekend of the NFL’s regular season. Everything came down to the Denver Broncos versus San Diego Chargers game on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Wegner and his nearest competitor both had three players in that game.
Both had Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers, so the two players Wegner needed good games out of were Broncos’ quarterback Jay Cutler and his No. 1 target at wide receiver, Brandon Marshall. The player he did not want to see perform well was the Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson, the player his closest opponent had going.
“I’ve never watched a game with that much at stake,” Wegner said. “I’ve never watched a game where I’ve been into a game that much. It was a wide range of emotions. I’ve never been so nervous in my life.”
Things did not look good for Wegner as Tomlinson rushed for 96 yards and three touchdowns on only 14 carries. Wegner could not stand watching anymore, so he went up stairs to tuck his two girls into bed.
His brother-in-law called him back downstairs when an injury to Tomlinson in the third quarter gave him reason to believe that he could hold on for the win.
“We were just on the edge of our seats,” Wegner said. “Every passing yard, every catch, was so important.”
Cutler and Marshall put together strong enough games for Wegner to edge out his opponent for the four-point win. He will be rewarded for that with a nice gift package from ESPN. An $1,100 Circuit City gift card, a gaming system, nine EA Sports video games, an authentic Vikings helmet and jersey and an autographed football are all his.
It is a package that Wegner said his two young sons are pretty excited about. They are already trying to figure out where to put all the new Vikings’ apparel they will be receiving.
For Wegner, the off-season will serve as a much-needed break before another season starts. The stress of the fantasy football season took its toll on him over the final weeks. He does expect to be back to 100 percent by the time training camp starts next summer.