Kissimmee native Isaiah Wharton, a defensive back for Rutgers University who played his high school ball for Gateway High, has accepted an invitation to
play in 94th East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg.
The senior all-star game will be held Jan. 19 at Tropicana Field, kicking off at 3 p.m. and broadcast live on the NFL Network.
Wharton finished his career this season for the Scarlet Knights (1-11) by starting all 12 games at cornerback for the fourth consecutive season, becoming the first Rutgers player to start all career games on offense or defense since Courtney Greene (2005-08). A team captain, he finished 2018 with 62 tackles, six for loss, eight pass breakups, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He earned the Scarlet Knights’ Paul Robeson Award for performance, leadership and dedication to the program.
Wharton played for Coach Marlin Roberts at Gateway from 2010-13 and was the team’s leading defensive back and, often, top scoring threat.
A strong performance in the game greatly impacts a player’s chances of a career in the NFL, as most teams send player personnel representatives to the game to evaluate talent. More than 100 players from last year’s game signed with professional teams this spring, and more than 70 made final NFL rosters last season.
The game, played annually since 1925, is sponsored by Shriners International, with most of the proceeds going toward the Shriners Hospitals for children, a network of 22 non-profit facilities across the country.
"The most important element of East-West Shrine Game has always been supporting Shriners Hospitals for Children," said East-West Shrine Game Executive Director Harold Richardson. "But during game week, it also affords our players an unmatched opportunity to showcase their talents and get their first taste of a potential career in the NFL."
Teams are divided into East and West teams based on where they attended college. Wharton is on an East team that includes safeties Sheldrick Redwine and Michael Jackson Jr. on defense and quarterback Jordan Ta’amu of Ole Miss and in-state linemen Fredrick Johnson (Florida) and Alec Eberle (Florida State).