St. Al’s Whitaker ranked among best in MAIS for a second time

Published 6:00 pm Monday, July 31, 2017

When he was named to the inaugural Mississippi Association of Independent Schools All-Gridiron Team in 2016, Jaylen Whitaker said he was as surprised as anyone.

After all, the then-junior only had 36 tackles as a sophomore and had yet to really make an impression as anything but one of the dozens of players statewide with loads of potential.

When the 2017 All-Gridiron Team was released, Whitaker wasn’t shocked at all. He knows he’s spent the past year seriously beefing up his resumé.

Whitaker led the Flashes with 80 tackles last season and has already committed to sign with Louisiana-Lafayette. He earned his place this time on the All-Gridiron Team’s list of the top 20 players in the MAIS, and said it shows how hard he’s worked to fulfill his potential.

“I felt like I earned it, because my stats proved it more than it did last year,” Whitaker said. “(In 2015) I only had 36 tackles, and (in 2016) I had 80. So that’s a big jump and it shows why I was picked.”

Whitaker and the other 19 members of the All-Gridiron Top 20 team will be honored at the MAIS’ Hall of Fame induction banquet Saturday at 6:30 p.m., at the Clyde Muse Center on Hinds Community College’s Rankin County campus in Pearl. Tickets for the banquet are $40 per person.

Whitaker has made a huge leap from the end of the 2015 season until now. In addition to the increase in his tackle total, he also had two sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown last season.

Besides his football exploits, Whitaker also won the Class AAA championship in the shot put and helped St. Al’s track and field team win the Class AAA team title.

Football is his future, though, and he said he’s proud to earn this level of recognition for the second time.

“It’s just showing, again, that I’m a top player in the state of Mississippi and the MAIS,” Whitaker said. “It’s just showing that I’ve proven myself to be a top dog in this league, and I hope to show it in the season.”

St. Al started practice last week and will host Brookhaven Academy in a preseason scrimmage Friday at 6 p.m.. It will play River Oaks and Claiborne Christian in a jamboree at Louisiana-Monroe on Aug. 12, and the season opener is Aug. 18 at home against Leake Academy.

Whitaker said he knows the all-state recognition will come with a price every time he and the Flashes step on the field — namely, a determination from opponents to take him out of the game.

“It’s a good thing, but it’s also a big target on my back because when we play other teams they’re going to say, ‘Oh, he’s the top dog. He’s ranked big.’ So there’s going to be a lot of teams out for my head,” Whitaker said.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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