A Canadian philosopher named Aubrey Graham once said something about going through adversity, and the proper perspective to have when things just aren’t going your way.
It goes a little something like this:
“God’s plan, God’s plan.”
Those two simple words are ones that Arizona senior cornerback Jace Whittaker took to heart as he was sidelined for almost the entire 2018 season after suffering an elbow injury in the Wildcats’ third game against Southern Utah. That happened after coming back from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the first two contests.
Whittaker never let the injuries get him down, though, or alter his mindset.
“Patience,” Whittaker said Friday. “You know its all about patience. I think God has a plan. It’s all about following through and sticking with it.”
One of the hardest things in college sports is seeing seniors have their final season cut short by an injury, and having to be a bystander in what is for many their last year of football for their lives. Luckily for Whittaker, the new redshirt rule that went into effect last year saved him a true senior season, and he looks to take full advantage.
“I’m full go,” said Whittaker. “I’ve been making tackles, it’s been feeling real great.
“It feels great to be back. There are a lot of mixed emotions right now. I haven’t played football in a while, and so it just feels great to be back out there and running around.”
When he wasn’t on the playing field last fall, Whittaker was still making an impact for Arizona as a steady voice to many young and untested corners who were thrown into the fire throughout the season.
“It was just being one of the guys,” he said. “You know you have to dress out, play the role on your team and do anything you can to help the guys who are ready to play who put the work in that week in practice. I don’t care what game it is, you can’t just show up to the game and expect to go out there and play. You know it’s a week full of practice, it’s a lot of film work. They put that work in and they deserved to play.”
The elder statesman in a young secondary, Whittaker’s war stories and tricks and tips were available for anyone who was willing to listen.
“Any questions they had, any confusions they had,” he said. “It was a lot of their first times so a lot of everything was new and everything happened fast. So anything that I had seen, that they asked about, I was able to answer.”
You gotta be happy for your teammates. I cant be selfish and sit here and be down on myself. I gotta be happy for those guys who put the same amount of work in as me, and who want the spot. And rightfully they got it so it made me happy.”
After displaying a unique impact on the players around him, Whittaker was still unsure if coming back to Arizona his final season was going to be worth it. He had the option to play that final year elsewhere, as a graduate transfer, or turn pro.
But those doubts were quickly put to rest.
“There weren’t any other options,” said Whittaker. “When I commit to something, I stick with it. There was a reason I came here to begin with. Coaches may come and go, but I fell in love with the school and fell in love with the program and wearing the “A” on my helmet when I play.”
No doubt that coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff saw the impact that Whittaker had on a team that was badly void of leadership and realized that just having someone like him back was going to be invaluable. Oh, and he can play a little too. I think that also helped.