Updated: Oct 5, 2020
“We used to play a great catch game in the front yard. I would purposely throw it just a little high, short or long and he and his brother would have to come down with it!!! Called it 1,2,3. 1)first down catch 2) TD 3) great catch.”
--Coach Mark Whittemore
By those standards, which is the way Mark Whittemore ranked the catches of his two young sons, Trent probably got a 3 and a 2 Saturday in his first game on Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. To him, no doubt, the second one felt like a 10 because it was his first touchdown grab as a Gator.
Lying there on the turf on his back with the ball slightly bobbling on his chest before he secured it, the 6-4 redshirt freshman was savoring a long-time dream growing up in the shadow of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. “Caught for a touchdown by Trent Whittemore on the backline of the end zone!” barked Mick Hubert.
Later, he played a little Luke Skywalker, high-pointing a catch from Kyle Trask good for 26 yards which was reminiscent of some of his basketball dunks which have earned him the nickname “White Chocolate” from some of his teammates. (The ESPN analyst kept calling him WHITE-MORE.)
Ever since last season the media has been hearing whispers about some scintillating plays by the rangy 6-4 receiver from Buchholz in Gainesville, where he played two sports at a high level – including football for his father. Last season the four Gator senior wideouts often hinted at some of his acrobatics in practice and talked about the upcoming receiving talent. Saturday we saw it.
“Oh yeah, just a play that we’ve been repping in practice all week and I got man coverage and Kyle (Trask) just put it in a great spot. I praise the Lord I was able to come down with it,” Whittemore said. “I just credit Kyle for a great throw, putting it in a spot where it was going to me or nobody. So, credit to him and praise the Lord I was able to come down with it.”
If you didn’t already know it, clearly Whittemore is steeped in faith. He and his brothers grew up that way. (There are four sons now. Luke plays wide receiver at Troy). They grew up in, and around, all kinds of sports --- their mom Missy being a grade A volleyball player for the Gators and dad Mark a wide receiver at Buchholz and UCF who sometimes trained in the off-season with All-American Chris Doering.
‘I find it difficult not to root for the Whittemores. From the very first time I met Trent I could tell he was special.’
The critics who said in pre-season that Florida was a bit shy in the receiver department due to the graduation of four NFL players clearly haven’t see what’s left in the cupboard – including Whittemore, Trevon Grimes, Xzavier Henderson, Jacob Copeland, Justin Shorter, etc.
Trent has been no secret to his quarterback. Trask knows he can put the ball where nobody else can catch it, as he did on the 26-yard high point.
"I know Trent has great ball skills,” said Trask. “So you know with the defender's back turned I was trying to rip it at him as long as the defender couldn’t see. And he went up and made a huge play."
I find it difficult not to root for the Whittemores and a player following in dad’s footsteps, likely even surpassing him. Trent played quarterback, safety, corner and wide receiver for the Bobcats. In basketball he was All-Area. He plays the game with such joy. And he loves being in Billy Gonzalez’s wide receiver room.
"It's so much fun,” Trent told the media. “I think it's crazy to go out there on every passing play and think, 'Hey, I got a shot on this play to catch the ball and take it.’ Just because you have so many weapons around you that, 'Hey, you might get the one-on-one matchup this play,' so I think that really keeps us going and it opens up so much for us just to have guys that game-breaking ability all around you."
From the very first time I met Trent I could tell he was special. That was in late 2018 when he was a finalist for the Ocala Quarterback Club’s first Scot Brantley Trophy. Then as the winner on the stage of the Reilly Arts Center in Ocala with Terry Bradshaw at the Brantley winner, where he graciously and humbly accept the trophy.
It’s more than a football award. Players are judged for their academics, leadership, character, loyalty and faith. He scored high on all of the above.
On Saturday he scored somewhere else big – on Steve Spurrier-Florida Field scoreboard. Why am I pretty sure it was the first of many to come?