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The Ike Whitaker Saga

In case anyone missed Zach Berman's story in today's paper, Ike Whitaker appears to be done at Virginia Tech. I raise the story in this forum because Whitaker chose Virginia Tech over Maryland amid the usual fanfare that accompanies a top-level recruit committing to a college.

Whitaker's story since then has been anything but a fairy tale: problems with alcohol that led to a rehab stint, a switch from quarterback to wide receiver after Tyrod Taylor committed to Tech, and most recently a suspension from the team followed by an alcohol-related arrest.

Stories such as Whitaker's resonate with me every February when fans and media become exorcised exercised over the decisions of high school seniors. While there's no question that recruiting is the lifeblood of an athletic program, no one knows how individual decisons will turn out.

What if Whitaker had chosen Maryland over Tech? Would he have had the same struggles adjusting to the sometimes overwhelming freedoms of college life? Would being closer to home have helped him in that regard? He almost certainly wouldn't have been asked to move from quarterback. Would he have become the kind of playmaking QB Ralph Friedgen has never really had? Both Whitaker and Friedgen's current situations might have been entirely different.

Or not. Jeremy Ricker was a highly touted dual-threat quarterback out of Bishop McDevitt High School when he signed with Maryland in 2006. A little more than a year later, he transferred out of the school, his relationship with the coaching staff having soured.

Virginia Tech likely wouldn't have gone to the Orange Bowl last season without Taylor playing as a true freshman and would be in real trouble this season without him playing as a sophomore. Without true freshman Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State might have some offensive problems this season. Rich Rodriguez' first season in Ann Arbor might be a lot more pleasant if Pryor had chosen Michigan over the Buckeyes.

But for every Taylor and Pryor, there's a Whitaker and a Ricker. None of this is a defense nor an indictment of any coaches, players, media or fans. It's just something worth keeping in mind on signing day in February

By Matthew Rennie  |  October 7, 2008; 10:02 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Comments

That's a sad story. These kids have so much athletic potential but they can't seem to divorce themselves from their troubled past.

Does anyone know what happened to Jeremy Ricker? He walked out of practice one day. I read he was transferring. I haven't heard about him since. When I ran a web search on him, I didn't find any new info.

At the time, he was considered one of the top QB prospects in Pennsylvania. Since then he's dropped off the radar it seems.

Posted by: Charles | October 7, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

These athletes have been told since they were very small that they were special. Everyone treated them like God's and no one ever told them how to behave. They were able to get by because they were "special"

Posted by: Richard Robinson | October 7, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Nice observations on Ike Whitaker. What might have been, we'll never know. However, I'm not a fan of the "big time football" status that Va Tech and other schools pursue-I think it leads to more pressure, higher expectations, and (not surprisingly), self-destructive behavior on the part of a lot of kids.

I hope Whitaker gets his life back together and gets a degree in the process.

Posted by: Ho Ho | October 7, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Remember that they are still children. I made a lot of mistakes in college, but you learn from them and move on with life. I agree with you Charles, that it's a sad story, but on the same token, it is unfortunate that so much pressure is put on these kids to perform. Obviously, some of the kids revel in it but others don't. I don't know that there should be a fundamental change in expectations but it IS important to remember that we're asking kids to carry the hopes of thousands of fans on game day.

Posted by: Rob | October 7, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Ho Ho Ho: Did you get the email I sent to you yesterday?
- Eric

Posted by: Prisbell | October 7, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I said from Day 1 that Ike was mistaken going to Tech. I believe he would've been better off going to Maryland or some other school where he could have played as a freshman. Instead, he was redshirted (a common procedure, but it allowed Taylor to come in and take his spot), and wasn't able to win the QB job. Playing anywhere is better than not playing at an upper echelon school. Ike should've also known this kind of thing happens at schools because his HS teammate got jerked out of scholarship last minute by Clemson. College athletics is a dirty business, and I think he would have been much better off in a different environment than VT.

Posted by: Tim | October 7, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

car insurance

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Posted by: GardNalfNeala | October 7, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Whitaker should transfer to Penn State

I loved this result.

Virginia -- 31
Maryland -- 0 (zero - zip - zilch - nada)

Maryland's - Defensive and Offensive lines and Linebacking corp are the worst in College Football.

I have seen harder hitting teams in powder puff leagues.

Maryland's recruiting efforts are going to take a major hit with this result.

Prediction:

Wake Forest -- 34
Maryland -- 10

Maryland will finish with a 5-7 record.

I am happy that Maryland is no longer recruiting Tavon Austin.

Jelani Jenkins, Travis Hawkins and Isaac Holmes will be signing with the University of Florida.

Go Tar Heels !

Posted by: Gary | October 7, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Ho Ho Ho: Did you get the email I sent to you yesterday?
- Eric

Posted by: Prisbell | October 7, 2008 11:11 AM

Yes-and I look forward to more progress on the TI!

Posted by: Ho Ho Ho | October 7, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I had a friend years ago who was a local all met linebacker that chose Penn State over Maryland. After his sophmore year Paterno called him into his office and told him you're welcome to stay on the team but I need your scholorship. To this day he thinks Paterno is god!

He probably would have played at Maryland but ended up without his degree and played no where. This is apparently pretty common in big time collage sports. Many big time programs find a way to get rid of players that don't make the grade. Maryland has locals go other places all the time and are never heard from again.

Who was that can't miss all met running back from Sherwood HS about 20 years ago? He verbaly commited to Maryland and at the last minute Joe Pa calls and he goes to Happy Valley. No one ever heard of him again.

Whitaker either was not ever going to start of he was a real troublemaker.

Posted by: donmac | October 7, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Ike was drinking in high school and he never figured out a way to kick the habit I guess. Everyone knew it then and they were all silent, enablers. He was a big fish in a small pond, like thousands that don't make it, and he thought he would have the world at his hands in college. Well it didn't work out that way! Surprise, Surprise. Ike, get your degree, get yourself clean and get on with your life. Make something of yourself and only look back to see how foolish you were, and learn from it. Your life will not be defined by your football career. If it is, you're in big trouble!

Posted by: Bob | October 7, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Ike would fit right in with UPS - - criminal records required.

Gary = Derrick "Dwayne" Williams, or his Dad.

Posted by: Gary from the parallel universe | October 7, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"Stories such as Whitaker's resonate with me every February when fans and media become exorcised over the decisions of high school seniors. "

it's "exercised" not "exorcised"

Posted by: john Howard | October 7, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

His name is Ritchie Anderson from Sherwood HS, class of '88, I think. He went and played at PSU, then had a decent NFL career, the one team that I can recall him playing for was the New York Jets. I'm sure if you google him, you'll find out some more.

Posted by: answer to Sherwood recruit | October 7, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

His name is Ritchie Anderson from Sherwood HS, class of '88, I think. He went and played at PSU, then had a decent NFL career, the one team that I can recall him playing for was the New York Jets. I'm sure if you google him, you'll find out some more.

Posted by: answer to Sherwood recruit | October 7, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

to those of you who have never or will never personally meet Ike and are not being anything but supportive of him....take your mediocre, middle-aged and probably has-been or have-NEVER lives and shove it. I bet those of you criticizing and saying rude things aren't even successful in your own live so that is why you like to point out the mistakes of others.
to those of you being supportive, it is great and I am sure he would appreciate it.

Now...to "Gary from the Parallel Universe" who says Ike would fit in with UPS because criminal records are required; what hole did you decide to climb out of? Was it your ass? Because that is what it seems like, why don't you crawl right back up your ass and leave the rest of the world be, continue on being a hobbit k?


Posted by: Hokie Anonymous | October 7, 2008 7:25 PM | Report abuse

I believe Ike's BEST days are ahead of him and it may not be necessarily on the football field. My prayer is that he will find the necessary strength in Christ to overcome the temptations of alcoholism. It was also in my darkest hour (a different kind of addiction) did I realize that I was a broken man, selfish and prideful.

But God...

No man, however gifted and talented on the football field is too far from the love of God. I firmly believe that we're going to hear of GOOD things coming forth from Ike's life in the future. May each of us take a moment out of our busyness of life to pray that the hand of God will touch him during this dark hour in his life.

Posted by: Brian Francis Hume | October 7, 2008 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Richie Anderson played three years at PSU and is among the all team leaders there for touchdowns scored. He went on to play over 10 years in the NFL with the Jets and Cowboys. He was on the fast-track as an assistant coach with the Arizona Cardinals, when one bad decision last year cost him his coaching career. Ike, #1 needs to stay strong and get his degree at VT, and see if any DII or IAA schools would consider him for one year. Why not exhaust all your eligibility and see what happens.

Posted by: bunchright | October 8, 2008 8:52 PM | Report abuse

I really wish everyone would take time to sit back and think how easily this could happen to you if you were in the same light. As a friend, a friend who has gone out and drank with Ike, i don't see anything different in him than the other thousands doing it with him. The problem is, he is in the spotlight and majority of the others are not......its much easier to talk down about him isn't it??? Would it be such an issue if it was just an average student attending VT?? NO!!! I know this is really hurting him, as it would anyone....so do you think maybe you can stop putting yourselves on a pedestal and take some advice from my mother.... "don't say anything, if you can't say anything nice at all" and one more bit of info for those of you who do know the scenes at VT and for those who don't.........if the police continue to wait outside the bars and the football games and pick random ppl out to give drunk in publics to.....it could be you, a friend, or even myself. And i would put money that they knew exactly who they were picking out and what type of publicity it would recieve........ I'm praying for you Ike, keep your head up....this will not stop you from being the person i know you are! Then all the trash talking, "know it alls" will have to swallow that foot thats lodged in their big mouths!!!

Posted by: friend | October 9, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I have known ike since 3rd grade and to all of you who are quick to judge....judge thee not... We all have some type of addiction. That coffee that you have to have every morning...starbucks...diet soda ummmm
Ike keep your head up we still care and you are not defined by football but who you are to us

Posted by: maybe down but not out | October 9, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

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