Towson's Whitacre finally gets kicks

Given shot in senior year, he has 16 straight PATs

College Football

September 26, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

One way or another, Ben Whitacre was determined to get his kicks in college.

In either style of football, the European kind Americans call soccer or on the gridiron, Whitacre was passionately devoted to the goal of playing a Division I sport.

Early on in his high school career, soccer appeared the favorite. Slightly built physically, he had the aim to join the midfield at the University of Virginia - and that did not mean the 50-yard line.

But times changed when he began performing for the more publicized Sherando (Va.) High School football team, a regular in the state playoffs. All-state recognition began coming his way and football moved to the forefront of his ambitions.

Six years later, Whitacre has realized his athletic dream as the Towson University place-kicker. He has changed his career goal from sportscaster to marketing and promotions and received school-wide notice as the president of the Student Government Association last year.

"That's the best job I ever had," he said of the SGA position. "I'm not pursuing a political career, but it was great managerial experience because you have to work with a lot of different types of people, some who share a common interest, some who don't. It was a lot like football."

Although he got a real boot out of supervising the university's student government until May 2002, Whitacre elected not to run again as the head of an organization that primarily allocates monies to a host of campus groups ranging from academic to religious to cultural to athletics-based.

One reason is his football responsibilities have increased with the departure of Ed Kulic.

Until this, his senior year, Whitacre was confined to kicking off while Kulic handled all the extra points and field-goal chores. A matter of seniority. For 28 games, Whitacre was a kickoff specialist, making one tackle that saved a touchdown.

"I'm a competitor. I wanted to play," Whitacre said. "But Ed had the game experience and as a senior, he was getting ready to set some records. That tackle was a pretty big thrill. Everybody else is a lot bigger and has a lot more padding than me.

"Now, it's my senior year and I want to make it count."

Whitacre is busy, busy, busy. In Saturday's wild 56-42 victory over Brown, he was on the field for eight extra points and nine kickoffs. "The more I'm out there, the better I like it."

Although he has not been asked to attempt a field goal, Whitacre is thriving as the conversion kicker. He is 16-for-16 and leads the Patriot League based on tries. The eight extra points against Brown tied a 32-year-old school record.

A class president four straight years and member of the National Honor Society at his high school near Winchester, Va., Whitacre carries a 3.8 cumulative grade-point average at Towson.

An electronic film media major who celebrated his 22nd birthday this week, he has already served as an intern at WBFF-TV and in the Towson athletic marketing and promotion office. Only 17 credits short, he will graduate next spring.

"My family has been a big influence in terms of always being there," Whitacre said. "From my mom helping with the homework to my dad kicking the soccer ball around, they have been behind me. They come to every home game and sometimes go on the road. I can't emphasize enough what they've done."

What they've done is mold a true student-athlete.

"His plate was pretty full last year, being president of the student government," said Tigers coach Gordy Combs. "But Ben has a plan of what he wants to accomplish in the classroom and on the playing field and knows how to get there. He also has great enthusiasm and a very supportive family.

"It was so positive for us to be represented by this young man throughout the campus. He is the whole package."

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