Osceola County is sending two football players to the University of Florida later this year, and their paths there are as different as they could be.
One plays a position that you’ll likely never pay much attention to, and the other, linebacker Diwun Black, did not play a snap his senior year.
Harmony’s Chase Whitfield has committed to the Gators and will try to win their long snapping job, vacated by outgoing senior Ryan Farr. Whitfield will go to Gainesville as a preferred walk-on.
“Usually they only put the three starting specialists, the snapper, placekicker and punter, on scholarship,” Whitfield said. “When I visited last month I was told that I’d be in the mix among three snappers to fight for the starting spot.”
And Whitfield, who also served as the Longhorns’ backup quarterback the last two seasons, is in a good spot even without a football scholarship, as he’s earned National Merit Scholar academic money. That’s made clear when you consider he also received an offer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology – “the” MIT. He plans to major in computer science and minor in chemistry, while mastering the science of snapping a football to a holder or punter perfectly every time, something stressed by the Harmony coaching staff, namely special teams coach Joe Allison.
“He was a kicker at (the University of) Memphis, so he and (HHS Head Coach Don) Simon stressed it, we’d do PAT drills in practice every day,” he said.
The story of Whitfield’s journey begs the question: how does one come to be a long snapper, and like the dirty work so much they make a college career out of it?
“I was a quarterback up until eighth grade,” he said. “I was at a summer camp that also had a long snapping camp on the next field over. I knew a guy who went to both so I watched what they were doing and thought, ‘I could do that.’
“That year I injured my bicep so I couldn’t throw, so I tried snapping. Now I’ve been the starting varsity snapper for three years.”
Black transferred to Osceola from Forest, Miss., after his recruiting whirlwind that saw him orally commit to Mississippi State, then change that to Florida after Coach Dan Mullen took the Gators job.
Unfortunately, eligibility and other paperwork issues couldn’t be resolved for him to play as a Kowboy, so the four-star linebacker prospect spent the fall and winter shoring up his academic work.
“I thought I was going to play,” Black said at Wednesday’s signing. “I had friends and family who helped me keep my head up and made sure I kept my grades up.”
Florida maintained its commitment to Black, despite his not playing his senior year, especially after playing for Team Makai in the Polynesian Bowl, a Hawaiian all-star game on Jan. 19.
He was joined at Wednesday’s signing by a companion — his faithful Chucky doll. “I’m a savage, so I feel like he’s a savage too, so we go together,” Black said.