By BEN JOHNSON
There came a day when he pondered switching high schools. Nick Whitlow was fed up with Henryetta High School and the notion to enroll in a new school district became very enticing.
“I was this close to moving schools,” he said. “I was going to go to Okmulgee, which was just 10 minutes up the road. (I) almost transferred there in eighth grade.”
The reason for Whitlow’s near-exodus? Henryetta’s decision to cut the varsity wrestling program.
It was all Whitlow could do to compose himself once wrestling was banished at Henryetta.
“Growing up, that was mine and my buddy’s goal in life: to wrestle in high school,” Whitlow said. “So once Henryetta cut it, I told myself, ‘OK, have to find something else to do now.’”
At that point, football became the focal point of Whitlow’s life.
“I’ve always loved football,” he said. “It was just my second favorite (sport).”
Once Whitlow’s career comes to an end at Northeastern State, head coach Kenny Evans might consider sending the Henryetta board of education a thank you note. After all, it led to him landing his fullback for the past half decade.
“Wrestling was a love of his, but he was also a great football player,” Evans said of Whitlow, who stands six feet tall while weighing 230 pounds.
“He was not only an All-State football player, but a valedictorian. He had a lot of options when he came here. He has everything that you look for in someone that you recruit. He had a solid background and great football skills.”
Those talents will be put to use one last time in 2013. It will technically be Whitlow’s second straight senior season with the RiverHawks.
“This will be my sixth season and 10th full-time semester,” said Whitlow, who has redshirted twice — the second time because of a broken collarbone during his initial sophomore campaign.
To be able to retain another year of eligibility, though, Whitlow had to refrain from any football-related activities with his teammates in the spring.
“I was excited,” Evans said of Whitlow’s extra semester of availability. “It was something we had talked about and worked on...the down side was he had to sit out this spring.”
No worries, though. Whitlow started all ten games for the RiverHawks in 2012 and was instrumental in NSU racking up 1,757 rushing yards by year’s end.
“He’ll be the only senior that’s projected as a starter (on offense),” Evans said. “...Hope that he’ll be another big impact this year.”
Some time off likely recharged Whitlow’s batteries. But now he’s hard at it, getting himself back into playing shape with fall practices a month and a half away.
“I heard good things this spring,” said Whitlow, who caught seven passes for 75 yards last season.
“I’m just looking forward to all the starters returning this year.”
Come Sept. 7 at Pittsburg State, it’ll likely be Whitlow’s teammates who are glad he’s back.