Playing in the spotlight is nothing new for Northwest High's Ike Whitaker, who has started as the varsity quarterback for the Jaguars since his sophomore year. However, his senior season this fall should bring a whole new level of scrutiny.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder is considered one of the top prospects in the nation -- ranked 13th among quarterbacks by the Sporting News -- and is coveted by scores of college programs. However, that spotlight hasn't swayed Whitaker from his ultimate goal.
"We want to win a championship," said Whitaker, who will not choose a college until after the season.
With Whitaker under center and a pair of Division I recruits in RB-LB Tony Nelson (Clemson) and WR Darren Brownlee (West Virginia) manning the skill positions, this year's Jaguars squad seems ready to surpass last season's accomplishments, which included a trip to the playoffs.
"This year's team is working much harder than last year's, so I expect us to be better," Whitaker said.
"His hard work makes me want to get better," Brownlee said of Whitaker, his friend since middle school. The two worked together at West Virginia's camp over the summer to lead their team to a 10-0 record.
While Whitaker's hard work and improvement on the field has caused the nation to take notice, coaches who have faced Whitaker have known of his abilities for quite some time.
"He is an exceptional player," said Paint Branch Coach Ernest Williams, who saw Whitaker throw for 255 yards and four touchdowns in last year's meeting. "He can do it all -- throw, run [and] he's tall. He fits the mold for NFL prototype quarterbacks."
While most opposing coaches share Williams's sentiment, no one appreciates Whitaker's skills more than the man who has had the pleasure of coaching him during his high school career.
"As a high school coach, every year there are a couple good or special players," said Northwest Coach Randy Trivers, "but Ike is a once-in-a-career type of guy."
-- Kerry Flagg