Late Washington player's beloved sports car finds its way into a special football photo

Steve Stein
Journal Star
Kathy and Arlan Wehnes of Washington stand next to the 1966 Mustang their son Scott was rebuilding when he died suddenly in 1998 from bleeding in the brain. Wehnes was a star football player at Washington Community High School from 1993 to 1995 and went on to play college football at Charleston Southern.

WASHINGTON — Scott Wehnes' beloved 1966 black Mustang sat untouched in a storage bay in his family's trucking business for 24 years.

This summer, it finally came out of the bay at Wehnes Trucking.

"Right time, right people, right cause," said Kathy Wehnes, Scott's mother.

The Mustang, looking spiffy after being washed, saw the light of day again to be part of the cover photo for the Washington football team's annual press guide.

Scott Wehnes was a Washington football star from 1993-95, and nearly three decades later remains near the top of the team's all-time tackle ranks. He went on to play college football after graduating from Washington in 1996, but he died Nov. 3, 1998, of bleeding in the brain, a day after collapsing while walking to practice. He was 21.

Wehnes was a defensive lineman at Charleston Southern at the time. Two days before the fateful practice session, he started a game against Southern Florida and had three tackles.

"Needless to say, the Washington football team is very special to our family," Kathy Wehnes said. "When we learned what they wanted to do with Scott's car, we wanted to help them. We appreciated that they remembered Scott."

How the car got in the picture

Brad Stewart and his son Jake Stewart, Washington senior quarterback, got the ball rolling for getting the Mustang rolling again and into the cover photo shot by photographer Richard Burk at Wehnes Trucking.

Brad Stewart was Scott Wehnes' friend and former Washington football teammate.

Jake Stewart was in charge of coming up with a theme for the front cover of this year's Washington football team press guide, a combined effort of coaches, players and the 12th Man booster organization. The cover always features the team's seniors.

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"We wanted to do something big for the press guide cover," Jake Stewart said. "Talking with Coach (Darrell) Crouch, he mentioned that we had never done muscle cars as a cover theme. When I heard that, a light bulb went on. I thought about putting Scott's car in the cover photo. My dad had told me about it."

Brad Stewart has a special place in Kathy Wehnes' heart. She recalls a conversation with him shortly after her son died. She doesn't remember what he said to her in the conversation, but it made an impression.

"What Brad said to me that day was insightful and comforting. Very mature for a young man," she said.

Brad Stewart also remembers the long ago conversation, but not the specifics.

"It was at the Wehnes family's house," he said. "I imagine what I said to Kathy was something simple like Scott was a great son and friend, he's in a better place, and I'm confident we'll all see him someday."

Scott Wehnes' 1966 Mustang is featured with two other muscle cars and eight senior football players on the cover of this 2022 Washington Panthers football media guide.

Two other muscle cars and eight seniors are pictured on the Washington football team's press guide cover.

Jake Stewart said the other cars in the photo came from Will Galloway, Wehnes' friend and former Washington football teammate, and one found on Facebook.

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Scott Wehnes' love for his Mustang was well-known among his friends. The story of how he got it isn't perhaps as well known.

"Scott bought the car in Bloomington in 1989 when he was 12. He saw an ad for it in the paper," Kathy Wehnes said. "He used the money he had saved from mowing lawns to help pay for it."

"I'm sure we chipped in to buy the car," said Arlan Wehnes, Scott's father. "Scott wanted to drive the car home from Bloomington. We told him that wouldn't be a good idea."

"The car is still in pretty good shape considering," said Kathy Wehnes, who will celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband Dec. 2.

In this family photo, Scott Wehnes stands with his beloved 1966 Ford Mustang.

Officially a hall of famer

Having his car on the front cover of the Washington football team's press guide isn't the only remembrance of Scott Wehnes this football season.

He was inducted last weekend into the high school's Hall of Fame. He also has a scholarship in his name, established by his family shortly after he died. His No. 51 Washington football jersey number was retired in 1998.

Scott Wehnes and the other nine Hall of Fame individual and team inductees were announced Friday before the Morton-Washington football game at Babcook Field. The induction ceremony followed the next day in the multi-purpose room at the high school.

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The Scott Wehnes Memorial Scholarship, which has ranged between $500 and $1,000 through the years, is awarded annually to a graduating senior on the Washington football team who is moving to play college football.

John Zaiser, Scott Wehnes' former Washington football teammate who graduated with him in 1996, has created a fundraiser for the scholarship fund. Apparel with a logo honoring Scott Wehnes is being sold with profits going into the scholarship fund. Zaiser said Washington-based Team Works by Holzhauer is creating the apparel and has put up the website.

In this family photo, Scott Wehnes drag races his 1966 Ford Mustang.

"I'm happy to do this for the scholarship fund," Zaiser said. "Scott and I played together on the offensive line — I was the center and he was at right tackle — and we were good friends. We hung out a lot at his family's business."

The Washington Community Foundation began managing the scholarship fund last year, taking over from the high school. The foundation president is Matt Moehle, who played football with Scott Wehnes before graduating from Washington in 1997.

"I played running back. Scott blocked for me," Moehle said. "He was the best player I ever played football with."

The Wehnes family also includes Scott's sister Lisa Weiss, who lives in Golden, Colorado and has twin 5-year-old boys Scott and Sam. Wehnes Trucking, located at 1103 S. Main St. in Washington, was founded in 1964 by brothers Arlan and Eldon Wehnes.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.