Columbus, Ga – As the high school football season approaches the WRBL News 3 Sports department also brought back the PrepZone Kickoff. This is event was a high school media days luncheon that brought teams from around the Chattahoochee Valley.
As the teams enjoyed a lunch at the Historic Marriott Columbus in Uptown Columbus Jeff Whitaker Jr., a defensive lineman with the 2010 Auburn University National Championship team, inspired the coaches and players.
Whitaker talked about how football saved him from a rough upbringing. Whitaker lost his mother to cancer when he was just 13, and through that dark time he turn to his football team and his family for support and love. He urged the players to become leaders among their team. Coaches and players alike said Whitaker’s message was impactful and they’ll take it back to their respective teams.
“I loved the event. It was a powerful message. Let guys know that family is first not only the on the football field but at home and the community and how the whole community can build one person,” said Hardaway head football coach Corey Thompson.
For some players, like Pacelli’s defensive tackle Solomon Smith, he related to Whitaker’s situation and was inspired to see how far he could go despite the obstacles in his life.
“I kind of related to it because my dad passed away. So I don’t really have and he was my best friend type of person. So football it really saved me right now too,” said Smith.
Northside senior safety Jax Werner will remember Whitaker’s challenge to become a leader and use that as motivation when he returns to his team.
“I learned a lot, and I took a lot from it and share with the team. You know take it back to our practices and be a leader,” said Werner.