By RICK PETERSON
No matter what, Wednesday night would have been special for Kyle Weems and Michael Wilhoite.
After all, it's a very rare occasion when an athlete get the opportunity to be enshrined in their hometown hall of fame.
The fact that the former Highland Park teammates and close friends got the chance to be inducted into the Topeka Shawnee County Hall of Fame on the same night added to the excitement ... a lot.
"It doesn't get any better," Weems said. "I said it before and I said it up there tonight, 'That's my brother. He's not a friend, he's my brother.' We've been through so much together and we've seen each other struggle trying to get to the place in our careers that we thought we deserved. To see us do that was awesome."
"It's everything, the world," Wilhoite said. "I say this all the time, 'Me and Kyle are so much better together than we are apart.' To be able to share this moment with him and his family, which is my family, and my family, which is his family, is priceless. There is nothing I can put into words to describe it."
Weems and Wilhoite's time at Highland Park was the start of a string of noteworthy achievements to come.
Wilhoite went on to a standout football career at Washburn University before playing six seasons in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, including a Super Bowl appearance.
His playing career helped set the groundwork for a coaching career, with Wilhoite on the staff of the New Orleans Saints the past two seasons before landing a job as the linebackers coach for the Los Angeles Chargers earlier this year.
Weems achieved his greatness on the basketball court, earning All-State honors for a perfect 25-0 team at Highland Park before earning All-America honors at Missouri State and embarking on a long, highly successful professional career overseas.
Weems recently capped his ninth professional season by helping Virtus Bologna of the Italian Lega Basket Serie A to the Italian National Championship and has signed a two-year contract to return to Italy after previously playing in Germany, France and Turkey.
Weems and Wilhoite agreed that they could have never predicted how their careers would turn out, but at the same time neither would accept failure, going all the way back to Highland Park.
"No way," Weems said. "As I got to know Mike, though, I knew he'd be great. I knew he'd be a great collegiate player. I thought I could be a great collegiate player, but didn't know at which level. But as I started to grow and work to my potential, I'm just glad I was able to pull something great out of it, as did Michael."
"I think we're so close because we had the same mission," Wilhoite said. "We had the same priorities. I never envisioned us going on to do what we've done, but I've never not envisioned us doing it as well."
Weems was introduced Wednesday night by Topeka Shawnee County Hall of Famer Ken Darting, who coached both Weems and Wilhoite at Highland Park, while Wilhoite was introduced by his former Washburn and 49er teammate, Joe Hastings, who is currently an assistant NFL coach for the Indianapolis Colts.
Both Weems and Wilhoite delivered heartfelt induction speeches Wednesday night, with both men shedding a few tears.
"He's inspired me as much as I've inspired him," Wilhoite said of Weems. "I felt like we were both guided by good people. It comes back to his parents, my parents, Coach D (Darting). We hated hearing them all the time, but we took heed and we respect them so much now because they knew the right path to go on and we went on it."
"It's been a great night,'' Weems said.