Jordan Whittington can hang with the most gifted athletes, but injuries continue to plague the redshirt freshman receiver.
One month before Whittington enrolled early at Texas in January 2019, he capped off his high school football career with a historic performance at the Texas 4A Division II state championship. Suited up for Cuero High School, he recorded 377 total yards and six touchdowns. He broke NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson’s Texas 4A state title game record and led his team to its first state championship in 30 years.
Whittington made 11 tackles in the game too, earning him Most Valuable Player of the game honors on both sides of the ball. With his sights set on Austin, he seemed unstoppable — until the sports hernia he sustained in high school came back to haunt him.
The injury sidelined then-running back Whittington for his freshman season and forced him to redshirt. He went under the knife twice to repair his re-aggravated hernia.
This season was supposed to be Whittington’s time to shine, to showcase the abilities that made him such a standout recruit. In January, one month after his second surgery, ESPN named him as one of its breakout college players to watch for in 2020. Whittington has said he wants to live up to that distinction.
“I’m coming different, I promise,” Whittington tweeted in response to the list.
He was ready to come back, better than ever. Videos of Whittington running again, pulling weights and catching passes circulated on social media over the offseason. He looked strong, like the high school player who broke all the records a year and a half before. Whittington said he just wanted to ball, and his wish was granted.
Texas’ home opener against UT-El Paso on Sept.12 was his long-awaited return from injury. Whittington caught two passes for 45 yards before he left the game at halftime. He’d hurt his knee diving for the football.
Head coach Tom Herman revealed the following Monday that the receiver would undergo knee surgery for a torn lateral meniscus. Whittington would miss more football — three to four weeks this time.
“Don’t give up on me,” he tweeted the day after his team escaped Texas Tech in Lubbock.
When Texas played Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl almost a month after Whittington’s knee injury, he made some of the plays to keep the Longhorns in the game late.
Losing to the Sooners was devastating, but Whittington said after the game that he was keeping his positivity up. His hernia injury was behind him and so was his knee.
Then, Herman dropped a bombshell Monday. Whittington sprained his hip flexor and will sit out for two weeks.
The receiver tweeted Saturday that his heart is blue. Whittington could’ve been talking about anything, but football has caused him pain, emotionally and physically.
“He was down in the dumps when he got the news,” Herman said. “For him, it is discouraging, and we feel for him, but my message to him is he’s got a long career.”
Whittington has the talent and the drive to be the great player he knows himself to be. He just can’t catch a break.