Patiently waiting Whittaker

The road for former USF wide receiver Huey Whittaker hasn’t always been smooth. Actually, there’ve been many bumps along the way. Whittaker, however, has taken advantage of every opportunity to get on the field.

Whittaker, a player on the practice squad for the Tampa Bay Storm, is patiently waiting to show what he can do. He credits his parents with the perseverance to overcome the obstacles he’s faced.

Whittaker said his parents, Hubert and Winnifred, tried to instill a good work ethic in their five children, and he paid attention. His parents came to the United States from Jamaica and worked hard to obtain the opportunity of employment and housing.

“When I was younger I watched my parents have to open up doors just to get to America,” Whittaker said. “And they were able to buy a house and raise their children in a good environment, so I’m just trying to follow suit of my parents.”

After a successful career at Springstead High School, Whittaker lettered in football and basketball. He was recruited by USF from Hudson Valley Community College in New York after one season with the Vikings. While at Hudson Valley, Whittaker caught six passes for 83 yards and one touchdown.

After being recruited, Whittaker was issued a redshirt season in 2000, which proved to be beneficial in his development as a receiver. Whittaker was the Bulls’ top receiving threat in his two seasons.

“Huey was a tremendous player when he was here, and whenever Huey wanted to do something, no one could stop him,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “He has great size, he’s a physical receiver and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash; one of the best receivers I’ve ever seen in the country.”

Whittaker, who majored in general studies, set a record for the second-most catches in a season (52) and in a career (117). He is also second on the team in receiving yards in a season (548) and career (1,447). Whittaker is third all-time for catches in one game with nine for 96 yards, against Louisville in 2003.

Leavitt praised Whittaker not only for his talent, but also for his character on and off the field. While his 6-foot-5 frame helped him shield off defenders and come down with many jump balls, it was friendliness that made him so personable.

“He’s a great person, a great guy,” Leavitt said. “If anyone ever took a chance on him and worked with him, he would make it in the NFL and be a star in that league.”

New England took that chance in the summer of 2005 by inviting him to training camp. Talks with the Patriots broke off, however, and he never got his shot.

Whittaker hasn’t let that deter him from reaching for his goal of playing NFL football and keeps working for his shot. He is behind starters Lawrence Samuels, who has played 11 of his 12 seasons with the Storm, and Ronney Daniels.

“I’m always working on my fundamentals and trying to stay sharp with my fundamentals,” Whittaker said. “When you aren’t playing, there might be a different mindset, but I’m just taking the mindset of trying to get better every day.”

Now, in his first season with the Storm, Whittaker is trying to get acclimated with the system of playing, arena football. He has the talent to be on the field, and Storm coach Tim Marcum is excited about Whittaker’s future with the Storm.

“He comes out here and works his tail off every day and is a real asset for us to have,” Marcum said. “And I believe that he will grow into a heck of a player in this league.”