May 20, 2014

NW Whitfield's Whisenant follows his dream to Reinhardt University

TUNNEL HILL — Not every football player signs on National Signing Day with a Division-I school, has a successful collegiate career and plays in the NFL. In fact, most don’t experience any of those events.

Andy Whisenant gets to keep playing the sport he loves for four more years — and will do so at a college he feels comfortable with. That’s a good ending, and one not many can say they had.

The Northwest Whitfield athlete signed an athletic scholarship Tuesday at the high school with Reinhardt University, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics member school, in Waleska. Whisenant signed a partial scholarship covering most of his tuition.

“It’s a beautiful campus,” Whisenant said. “It’s not too big or small. I liked that. ... When I went in the weight room, it kind of grabbed me. It’s a top-of-the-line weight room. The coaches were all nice when I went down to the (workout).”

Whisenant, a three-sport athlete, was a varsity pitcher his sophomore season and was a starting outfielder and pitcher his junior and senior years. In basketball, he was on the varsity roster his sophomore year, was a significant contributor off the bench as a junior and started his senior season.

However, he’s always been a football player at heart. He started at safety his sophomore season, played safety and wide receiver as a junior and played mostly wide receiver his senior year as Northwest reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2010.

“Football has always been the goal,” said Whisenant, who specifically thanked Northwest coach Josh Robinson and Dalton fitness and training centers Z’s Gym and Champions of Dalton for helping accomplish the goal. “Something about it with the atmosphere and just the whole town gets into it. It’s just the atmosphere. I love it.”

As a senior, he caught 40 passes for 664 yards, which ranked fourth among area receivers, and his 16.6 yards-per-reception average was third in the area among players with more than five catches. His 10 touchdown catches tied with teammate Tevin McDaniel for the single-season scoring receptions record at Northwest. On defense, he recorded 63 tackles, had two pass breakups, one interception, one defensive touchdown and one forced fumble. On special teams, he returned two kicks for scores. He totaled 13 visits to the end zone.

He is a two-time selection to The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Football Team, which he made his senior and sophomore years.

“Most people outside of Northwest know Andy as the football, baseball and basketball player,” Robinson said. “The coaches here, myself included, know him as Andy Whisenant the boy, who is an incredibly hard worker and is committed to everything he does. ... The thing about him is everyone on the team could look and see how hard he was working.”

Whisenant was recruited as a wide receiver, and Reinhardt had been interested for quite a while. The first offer came in January, but the Bruin athlete had hopes of playing for a Division-I program. When that didn’t happen, Reinhardt and others were still there with heavy interest. Some of the other interested schools included: Rome’s Berry College, an NCAA Division III program; North Carolina’s Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II school; Tennessee’s Bethel University, an NAIA program; and South Carolina’s North Greenville University, a Division II school.

“I’m not saying this specifically about Andy, but I think our society gets wrapped up in the hype of National Signing Day,” Robinson said of the annual day in early February when most high-profile prospects sign with big-name programs. “Reality is, those are very few and far between and in essence, you’ve got to find the place where you’ve got a good chance to play, will be happy and get a good education. Forget the glorified stuff because the reality is a very small percentage of people get that.”

Reinhardt started its football program in the 2013 season, finishing 6-4, and will play a 10-game schedule in 2014. Whisenant visited Reinhardt earlier this spring, did workouts for the coaching staff and impressed enough to earn another offer.

Whisenant took it, knowing he wants to study physical therapy and he has four more years left to enjoy playing the sport he loves.

“It’s about the next four years,” he said. “Football will eventually end. It’s about furthering your education.”

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