Without their top two rushers, the Longhorns needed a big day out of Fozzy Whittaker. On the fourth play from scrimmage, David Ash pitched the ball to the senior tailback, whose knee awkwardly buckled beneath him. It was his third carry of the game but proved to the last one of his career.
“How do you get hit as many times as I’ve been hit and my knee goes out on a play where I’m not even touched?” Whittaker wondered to head coach Mack Brown on the sideline.
Whittaker battled injuries throughout his Longhorns career, never making it through a full season healthy. He missed six games during his freshman year with a knee injury, another three as a sophomore and a shoulder injury kept him out of Texas’ win over Florida Atlantic last season. He finally realized his potential this season, becoming one of the team’s most reliable playmakers working out of the Wild formation and one of the nation’s most explosive kick returners. But his stellar senior season came to an abrupt end Saturday.
“You lose part of your heart, part of the soul of this team,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
“You can’t replace that. From the football side, you lose a guy that can score on any play. His tape says that anywhere on the field he can go the distance. There’s only so many of those guys in the country.”
No date has been set, but Whittaker plans on having surgery to repair his torn ACL in mid-December. Doctors have told him it will take at least six months after the surgery before he’ll make a full recovery, although Whittaker hopes to be healthy sooner. Whittaker is using a cart to get around campus to and from his classes but expects to be in crutches for Saturday’s game and Senior Night ceremonies. He is also on track to obtain a master’s degree in kinesiology next May.
“Fozzy epitomizes what we all want in college student-athletes,” Brown said. “He’s a person that has given a lot more to Texas than he’s gotten back. He’ll fight for a chance to play in the NFL but he’ll have a great career at something when he gets out.”
Somehow, Whittaker has found a way to remain encouraged and upbeat, making him virtually the only person with an optimistic perspective of his situation. Brown said Whittaker is the most positive person he’s ever met, as evidenced by his response to tearing his ACL and MCL this past weekend.
“I still have a lot of things to be happy about and thankful for,” Whittaker said. “This is just a minor speed bump in my life. God has a reason for everything. This is just all a part of His plan. All I can do is put my trust and faith in Him.”
The career-ending injury Whittaker suffered Saturday is likely the most disheartening sustained by a Texas football player since Colt McCoy was knocked out of the 2010 national title game against Alabama. Emotions are likely to run high this weekend with the upcoming Senior Night festivities. When asked if he would cry this Saturday, senior safety Blake Gideon wasn’t sure but he may have answered that question after tearing up while talking about Whittaker.
“He would lay down in the street for any one of us,” Gideon said. “The type of character that Fozzy has and what he would do for any one of us just shows you the type of person that he is and why we’re all going to miss him so much.”
Whittaker will still attend the same meetings, practices and games he did while he was healthy, but Gideon will be joined by many melancholy Longhorns fans who will miss Whittaker’s contributions on the field.
Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: Promising career meets abrupt end