by Beau Wicker
Pioneer senior Stephen Whitlock has come a long way in sports in a relatively short amount of time.
Whitlock said he was a pint-sized middle schooler and that he wasn’t much of a football player back then.
Now that he’s grown up, he became a stalwart at his linebacker position for the perennially strong Panthers, leading them in tackles in each of the last two seasons.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound outside linebacker has signed to play football at the Division II University of Indianapolis.
The Greyhounds went 10-3 last season and reached the second round of the D-II tournament.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Whitlock said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun.”
The Panthers continued their absolute dominance in Midwest Conference play in football and finished ranked No. 4 in Class A.
Whitlock was also a starter for the Panthers boys basketball team this winter that goes down as one of the best in school history. They went 21-4, won their fourth straight sectional title and were regional finalists in Class A. They also finished with a No. 4 state ranking.
“We had a great season, a little disappointing of a finish, but a really good season,” Whitlock said. “It was a little disappointing losing to Triton at the end. But it was a lot of fun. I think we did really well.”
Whitlock’s strengths in football carried over to the basketball court quite well as a scrappy defender who was also able to knock down some big 3-pointers at the Triton Regional.
In baseball, Whitlock is one of the few senior leaders on the Panthers’ young team this spring. The Panthers are 3-4 to start the season, 4-0 in MWC play.
“I think we’re going to keep getting better,” Whitlock said. “We have the potential to be pretty good. We’ve got to get the bats going. I think we can be pretty good in the field. We’ve got some young pitchers, but they’ve started throwing a lot better here recently.”
Whitlock plays all three outfield spots and catcher for the Panthers.
“He’s a three-sport athlete who has done quite well,” Pioneer baseball coach Dick Farrer said. “He has succeeded in three sports. He’s going on to play football. I’m glad for Stephen. He’s earned it.”
The following is a question-and-answer session with Whitlock.
Q. Of the sports you play, which is your favorite? Why?
A. Football, I used to hate it because I was smaller than everyone and I would always get smashed, but now that I am as big or bigger than a lot of people and it is really fun.
Q. How did you first get started in sports? At what age?
A. I started playing baseball in Little League around the age of 7.
Q. Do you have any family members who played sports?
A. My dad [Adrian] wrestled in high school and my mom [Elaine] played volleyball in high school. My brother, Philip, played baseball at Grace College.
Q. Have you ever played a sport that you were not successful at?
A. I used to wrestle in junior high. I wasn’t awful, but I wasn’t too good either. I earned the nickname “the Fish” because I would just flop around or do anything so that I wouldn’t get pinned.
Q. How do you feel you’ve improved as an athlete since you first started playing?
A. I tend to think about the game more and try to understand it, instead of just going out there and playing without a strategy.
Q. Who do you consider your biggest role model? Why?
A. My parents are my biggest role models because they are always encouraging me to get better and they are very supportive. Also, they are always at all of my games.
Q. What experiences have you had in sports have made you the athlete you are today?
A. Having great coaches throughout high school and being in the weight room every day have made me the athlete I am today.
Q. What is something that not everyone knows about you?
A. This is pretty embarrassing but in junior high I was scared to get hit, so sometimes I would pretend I accidentally tripped so I didn’t have to attempt to make the tackle.
Q. What is your favorite memory of playing sports at your school?
A. My favorite memory of playing sports in high school was winning four sectionals and advancing to the regional final in basketball. That was really exciting, and it was fun to play in front of all the people at the regional.
Q. What’s your favorite music, movie, TV show, etc.?
A. Artist: Drake. Movie: The Campaign. TV show: First Take. Book: Guinness World Records. Sports team: Oregon Ducks.
Q. Who is the best athlete in your respective sport you’ve ever gone up against?
A. The best athletes I went up against were Danny Anthrop in football and Clay Yeo in basketball. They were both really good.
Q. What are your goals for your future? Do you plan on attending college?
A. My goal for the future is to graduate college and get a good job. I plan on attending the University of Indianapolis and studying exercise science. I will also play football while I am attending there.
Each week during the school year the Pharos-Tribune recognizes an athlete from one of five area high schools. The recipients are selected by each school’s athletic department.