For Jordan Whittington, happiness is a choice

Jordan Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor

This time last year, junior wide receiver Jordan Whittington fell out of love with football. 

While Whittington is known for playing with contagious happiness in 2022, he struggled to keep a smile on his face through his 2021 season as he dealt with issues on and off the field. 

Whittington missed four games after breaking his collarbone at the Red River game. By that point, he had missed 17 games in his Texas career due to a lingering groin injury from high school, a slew of hamstring issues, a torn meniscus and a strained hip flexor. 

Shortly after spending the following weekend with his family at the Oklahoma State game, his father Elmoris Johnson Jr. suddenly passed away. Whittington considered Johnson a role model and fondly remembers when he would drive back home to Cuero, Texas, and they would talk on the porch for hours.

“He just meant a lot to me,” Whittington said. “I had a rough two months where I got hurt and I lost my dad. Nothing was going my way.”

However, Whittington is playing football with a newfound joy in 2022. 

Following the West Virginia game, Whittington flashed a large, toothy grin when he was given a handwritten “Happy Birthday Jordan” sign by his teammates. After posing with the sign at the 50-yard line, DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium played “Happy” by Pharell Williams, prompting Whittington to prance towards the tunnel while singing and giggling with a cameraman.

Whittington’s birthday celebration during his three-reception, 58-yard game against the Mountaineers was in line with what he had done in previous games. The slot receiver’s antics this season include planting a Texas flag at midfield after the Red River Rivalry game, talking about his favorite ice cream flavors during press conferences — chocolate chip cookie dough and caramel cookie, by the way — and celebrating with his “friend” Bevo after his first touchdown of the season against Iowa State.

Whittington’s rejuvenated demeanor can be attributed to the ending of the disappointing 2021 season, where he reflected on how he approached football. After the 5-7 season, Whittington realized that he grew to be bitter and selfish through the season, prompting him to construct a new routine. He began taking the early bus to the football facility for extra workouts and starting eating healthier. He also adopted a happier and more optimistic mindset for the future.

“I was being selfish as far as my feelings and just going with how I felt without considering that I still got a team here,” Whittington said. “Why would I give up when I’m not really done yet?”

Whittington is not only staying healthy this season, but he is playing some of the most unselfish football on the team. Specializing in precise route running and accumulating yards after the catch, Whittington is primarily targeted on short passes that move the chains rather than flashy catches in space. Whittington only has one touchdown on the season, but he helps put points on the board by blocking for other position players and driving the ball down the field when far removed from the red zone.

“I just really play to win,” Whittington said. “Whatever I can do to help us win.”

Despite going through four years of injuries, a pandemic and his father’s passing, Whittington strives to drive until the tank is empty when on the field. With his new mindset and the occasional pint of ice cream on Saturdays, he lines up for every play with a smile on his face and a determination to seize the moment.

“I fell in love with the game again, and I don’t take it for granted,” Whittington said. “Any play could be your last play, so I just try to take advantage of every opportunity (I) get.”