Dead week didn’t apply to Athens Academy senior running back and linebacker Len’Neth Whitehead.
While most of the area’s high school football players enjoyed barbecues and time at the beach, Whitehead took the opportunity to add to his collection of milestones.
Whitehead traveled to Dallas where he took part in the annual The Opening finals, an event that acts as a combine for the nation’s top high school football players.
Whitehead set out to improve his shuttle time, which he did, as well as make himself a bit of a household name amongst his peers of future college football players around the nation.
For Whitehead, being invited to an event that has a history that has been painted by multiple stars that now fill uniforms in the National Football League is one of his greatest accomplishments yet.
“It was a big accomplishment and I’m proud of myself for making it happen,” Whitehead said. “I’ve been working hard. It was nice to see all of my hard work have some results.”
During his time at in Dallas Whitehead experienced something he hasn’t experienced in a while. He was the unproven, unknown guy in the room. Playing at a single A private school gave Whitehead a chance to be the guy with something to prove. Most weeks during the football season Spartans’ opponents have Whitehead circled on their chalkboards and in their scouting reports. For the first time in a long time, Whitehead was around people who had no idea of what he was capable of on the football field.
Many of the recruiting analysts nationwide as well as coaches of college programs know who Whitehead is, but he has yet to make an impression or meet many of the of the big-name high school football recruits around the nation. By the second day of the event Whitehead made his presence known and earned the respect of the gathering of talented prep players.
“I just wanted to prove to everybody that I was meant to be in that type of atmosphere,” Whitehead said. “I wanted to compete with the best... I went there and I was kind of the lower name. Reporters knew my name and the coaches did as well, but the players didn’t know me. By the second day and we had done our testing and we had shown off our speed and I showed that I could cover, I had earned a name.”
Whitehead has missed out on many of the events that allow for bonding amongst prospective high school players due injuries that have had him spending his summers recovering as well as his shot put training.
This summer Whitehead wanted to make sure he got to experience some of the networking opportunities that come with the four star grade he has on multiple recruiting sites.
“This summer was the first time that I have gotten the opportunity to get to spend some time with other players and get to know some of them,” Whitehead said. “I hung out with a lot of the players from the state of Georgia... I made a good bit of connections out there.”
In the days leading into his trip, Whitehead also made public the top seven schools he would be considering until he makes his college choice.
In a graphic he posted on his Twitter page, Whitehead named Georgia, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M and South Carolina as his top seven favorite schools. Whitehead felt the time was right to begin narrowing down his list of schools. With the start of his senior season at Athens Academy is less than a month away, Whitehead wanted to begin focusing on the season. Whitehead admits he won’t rush his decision, it could be some time before he picks a school but he knows there a few that truly have his attention at the moment.
“It was getting overwhelming,” Whitehead said. “There were a good bit of schools that were still calling and texting everyday. It was time to narrow it down. It’s getting to the point where you’ve got to make a decision. I don’t want to be too late in the season making my decision. But then again, I’m going to wait until my heart tells me where I want to go. I’m not rushing it at all.”
Many of the schools after Whitehead have recruited him as a linebacker. He has expressed his desire to continue to play the running back position at the next level, which is why Wisconsin was named in Whitehead’s top seven. The Badgers were the only school to offer Whitehead exclusively as a running back so far.
Following The Opening, Whitehead feels he could be more open to the linebacker position than he was a few months ago. Proving to himself that he could handle covering running backs, tight ends and wide receivers in space gave Whitehead some confidence at the position heading into his senior season.
“I needed that,” Whitehead said. “With my role here [At Athens Academy], I’ve always been a standout running back. I never thought linebacker would be this open. It’s kind of a change for me. I had to go out and play a position that I’m not as confident in yet and trying to play it at the next level. It kind helped me gain confidence in whether I could do it at the next level.”