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April 25, 2011

Four-star signee boasts accolades on, off the field

As the most decorated high school football player to come from Amanda Elzy High School in the small town of Greenwood, Mississippi, Jermaine Whitehead certainly has plenty to boast about on the football field.

Selected to last season's Dandy Dozen in the state of Mississippi last July, Whitehead was also named an All-State defensive back in December and this past February, signed a scholarship to play at Auburn.

If football was not enough, Whitehead also runs track, plays basketball, and baseball as well.

This past basketball season, Whitehead helped his team to the 4-3A district championship, averaging around 12 points per game, and earning MVP honors in his district tournament.

Since National Signing Day 2011, when Whitehead switched his commitment from Mississippi State to Auburn and signed with the Tigers, he admits his life is much more relaxed without the added pressure that came with the big decision.

"It's been relaxing," Whitehead said. "Everything has calmed down, and it's a great feeling knowing I'm headed to one of the best teams in the country and the SEC. I'm still a little shocked, and I'm just ready to make some big plays that I think I can make."

Whitehead took an official visit to Auburn on January 30, 2010, the last weekend before signing day.

While the 6-foot, 180-pound corner rated the visit a '10', Whitehead said he knew before that visit that Auburn was the place he wanted to play his college football.

"I kind of knew I wasn't going to Mississippi State, I just felt a little biased towards them because they were in state," said Whitehead. "When I went to Auburn early on, I knew it was a great place.

"Going into the last month or so I was thinking Auburn was the place I wanted to be."

Whitehead said the pressure to stay in-state and attend Mississippi State was something he battled with constantly throughout the process, but ultimately his friends and family supported his final decision.

"It got to the point where my friends just decided to support me wherever I wanted to go," said Whitehead.

But despite all his accolades in his high school football career, and all the attention he received during the recruiting process, Whitehead is equally proud of his accomplishments off the field. One of Mississippi's top student-athletes, Whitehead carries a 4.0 GPA, already scored a 23 on the ACT, and is his school's valedictorian.

In March, Whitehead was honored for those accomplishments, as he was recognized for his academic and athletic achievements by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.

Whitehead was one of 16 seniors named as a Lindy Callahan Scholar-Athlete award winner.

"I take more pride in my grades than I do in football," Whitehead said. "I know for a fact football won't last forever. This honor means as much or more to me than football. I take pride in my academic abilities."

While many high school student-athletes place the importance of athletics above accomplishments in the classroom, Whitehead maintains he is of a different breed.

"When I'm in school, it's about schoolwork. When I'm on the field, it's strictly football," Whitehead said. "I strive to be the best in both fields. If you're going to be the best, be the best everywhere.

"If you try hard on the field, why can't you try hard in the classroom, that's the way I think. I like doing things big, if you're going to go all out, do it in everything."

So after a fall that saw him earn All-State honors, a football scholarship to play football for the reigning national champions, District MVP honors in basketball, and a prestigious student-athlete award, Whitehead is now beginning to look ahead to Auburn.

The talented Magnolia State product plans to be in Auburn May 18th or 19th to begin classes, and in the meantime, is working out during the week trying to improve on his quickness and stamina.

Whitehead said he wants to be around 185-pounds when he reports, up five pounds from where he stands now.

While Whitehead was a four-star recruit out of Greenwood, he knows his work will be cut out for him when he arrives at Auburn, but said he is up to the challenge.

"I just want to prove to a lot of people that hard work will pay off," Whitehead said. "We'll have a young team that will have to grow, but we'll get it done. I'll play anywhere once I get down there, I just want to get the job done."

As a senior, Whitehead rushed for 805 yards and six touchdowns, threw for 62 yards and one touchdown, and caught seven passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns.

Whitehead will begin his career at Auburn at cornerback.


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