Whitehurst Continues to Lead On and Off the Field

by - Correspondent -
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Charlie Whitehurst is a preseason Davey O'Brien Award candidate.
Charlie Whitehurst is a preseason Davey O'Brien Award candidate.

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- While most of the football players at this past weekend's Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff played a little golf and took in a free weekend of relaxation at the Grandover Resort and Conference Center, Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst had other worries on his mind.

He wasn't worried about what effects newcomers Miami and Virginia Tech brought to the new ACC. He wasn't thinking about whether his new receiving corps could get the job done. He wasn't worried about the tackle positions, which Clemson must get settled before the Wake Forest game.

No, Charlie Whitehurst was worried about more important things. He was worried about his studies. You know? The real reason he came to college.

"I wish I could play some golf," he told me as he slammed down a Coke and ate some peanuts between breaks with the media Sunday, "but I can't. I have to get back. I have a big test coming up." It is because of that kind of attitude, more than likely, Tommy Bowden chose the Davey O'Brien candidate, along with All-ACC linebacker Leroy Hill, to represent the Tigers to the hundreds of media that preyed upon every word the 22 players from the 11 schools said.

Whitehurst, one of the few underclassmen Bowden has brought with him to such events, maybe the only one for that matter, proved why he is a leader at Clemson.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior oozed confidence. Not the kind of confidence that comes off too cocky, but the kind that displays sureness, and knowing what his limitations are.

As the media fired question after question for over 90 minutes, Whitehurst never faltered from his demeanor. Never once letting the questions or remarks get to him and never once boosting his talents.

His comments were all about the team, his coach and his parents. None were about Charlie Whitehurst.

As I walked around the room, listened and took notes from the other players who were on hand, I asked myself, "Where is Chris Rix?" You know the guy.

The tall, very athletic quarterback from Florida State.

I looked over at the Florida State table, and I didn't see him. Instead I saw linebacker A.J. Nicholson and wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe. Not that there was nothing wrong with Bobby Bowden's selection of who represented the 'Noles, but I couldn't help but wonder why not Rix?

What does this say about the senior, though brilliant at times with his athletic ability, who has otherwise shown no leadership skills on or off the field in his three-year tenure?

In a season where so much of FSU's success will lie on his shoulders, why isn't he here with the rest of ACC's best returning quarterbacks?

North Carolina's Darian Durant was there. So was Virginia Tech's Bryan Randall. Even much maligned University of Miami quarterback Brock Berlin was in attendance.

Like Whitehurst, they're all thought of by their head coaches as the leaders of not just their offense, but also the entire team. It's an acknowledgment all quarterbacks search for.

Rix's record as a starter isn't shabby. He has compiled a 24-10 mark as a starter with back-to-back ACC titles to show for it. He has thrown for more than 8,000 yards in his career with 60 touchdowns.

But stats don't make a leader. They may help build one, but they can't define a football player or a man for that matter. What makes a leader on the football field is his unwilling way to fight when there appears to be no fight left in his team.

For Charlie Whitehurst, that moment came in the 2002 Tangerine Bowl where he kept getting back up after every blow the Texas Tech defense laid on him.

For Durant, it was the way he stayed positive during an injury-plagued sophomore season, and a junior season where he had little help.

For Randall, it was his ability to stay strong and fight for his job, even though a more talented Marcus Vick pushed him to seize the starting position.

For Berlin it was sitting on the sidelines at Florida, where he was told he wasn't good enough and then battling back through a difficult season at Miami to retain his starting job.

What is Chris Rix's defining moment as a leader? Was it last year's Florida game? Or is it this season? And does it have to come on the football field?

It isn't always what a football player does on the field that makes him a leader. But there are things Rix has done in the past that show even fewer leadership skills there.

There was a reason why Bowden didn't choose Rix to represent his team.

Maybe, we will find out why? Then again, maybe we will not.

Maybe, like Whitehurst, Rix had to study.

Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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