FAITHFULLY: Kielan Whitner relies on religion throughout his circuitous path to starting role at Syracuse

first_img Published on August 30, 2018 at 11:43 pm Contact Josh: jlschafe@syr.edu | @Schafer_44,Mountain View wouldn’t see a winning season in its first seven years. Former-head coach Tim Hardy left just months after naming Whitner a varsity starter during his freshman season. When his coach left, his friends followed suit.Whitner stayed.A two-star recruit, schools told him he wasn’t fast enough. Coaches valued other recruits more. He was undersized. Whitner committed to Appalachian State and finished his high school career without a single winning season.But then came the Syracuse offer which changed the course of his career. To attend a Power Five school, that he had always dreamed of, Whitner had to decommit.“When he had to call people and let them down, people that he didn’t want to let down, people that he genuinely liked and people that were very good to us … when he did that, that was rough,” said Whitner’s mother, Lisa. “He just wanted to go into his room and be by himself.”Whitner saw his first extended action of his college career against South Florida in a 45-24 loss. Then a true-freshman, he made several errors, including a personal foul call that all but solidified the outcome. The performance prompted an apology from Whitner on Twitter.After the game, Whitner found himself in what he called a tough place. Fans bombarded him on Twitter. Media dissected his errors. He turned to the Bible and found his favorite passage. Book 2 of Corinthians 12:8-10 reads:My power is made perfect in weakness“I just felt like you go through tough times, and that’s when you find, like, who you are as a person, and really build your strength through those tough times,” Whitner said.Less than a month later, Whitner registered a career-high nine tackles and forced a fumble against Louisville in a 41-17 loss. Syracuse finished the 2015 season 4-8. Scott Shafer was fired, resulting in more than half of Whitner’s freshman class leaving the program before their senior season.Whitner stayed.“At the end of the day you have to realize this is a business … they have to do what’s best for them and their family,” Whitner said. “I love coach Shafe and was sad to see him go. But at the same time, I was going to do everything in my power to be a guy for coach Babers and what they wanted a Syracuse football player to be.”Last year, Whitner observed senior linebackers Paris Bennett and Zaire Franklin. He hopes to mimic Bennett’s quick feet while also channeling the disruptive nature of Franklin in opposing backfields.His experience at multiple spots on the defense only helps when understanding his new position, Whitner said. He compared his role as a linebacker to that of a strong safety rolling down into the box.“He’s very, very intelligent and he cares,” head coach Dino Babers said. “The way he prepares and stuff, the things he does off the field, makes him a better him on the field.”Babers declined to name the starting linebackers during his last press conference of the preseason, leaving no clear indication that Whitner won the position battle.Regardless, Whitner is in a better place now. In his Twitter bio, he links to a different Bible passage. Matthew 6:33 reads:But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.“All this adversity, there’s not really anything I can do worrying about it or anything like that, so I’ve been at a good place,” Whitner said. “I just feel like in everything I do in my life, it’s most important if I focus on what God wants to in that situation rather than my own personal gain.”Cover photo by Paul Schlesinger | Staff Photographer,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment. Mountain View wouldn’t see a winning season in its first seven years. Former-head coach Tim Hardy left just months after naming Whitner a varsity starter during his freshman season. When his coach left, his friends followed suit.Whitner stayed.A two-star recruit, schools told him he wasn’t fast enough. Coaches valued other recruits more. He was undersized. Whitner committed to Appalachian State and finished his high school career without a single winning season.But then came the Syracuse offer which changed the course of his career. To attend a Power Five school, that he had always dreamed of, Whitner had to decommit.“When he had to call people and let them down, people that he didn’t want to let down, people that he genuinely liked and people that were very good to us … when he did that, that was rough,” said Whitner’s mother, Lisa. “He just wanted to go into his room and be by himself.”Whitner saw his first extended action of his college career against South Florida in a 45-24 loss. Then a true-freshman, he made several errors, including a personal foul call that all but solidified the outcome. The performance prompted an apology from Whitner on Twitter.After the game, Whitner found himself in what he called a tough place. Fans bombarded him on Twitter. Media dissected his errors. He turned to the Bible and found his favorite passage. Book 2 of Corinthians 12:8-10 reads:My power is made perfect in weakness“I just felt like you go through tough times, and that’s when you find, like, who you are as a person, and really build your strength through those tough times,” Whitner said.Less than a month later, Whitner registered a career-high nine tackles and forced a fumble against Louisville in a 41-17 loss. Syracuse finished the 2015 season 4-8. Scott Shafer was fired, resulting in more than half of Whitner’s freshman class leaving the program before their senior season.Whitner stayed.“At the end of the day you have to realize this is a business … they have to do what’s best for them and their family,” Whitner said. “I love coach Shafe and was sad to see him go. But at the same time, I was going to do everything in my power to be a guy for coach Babers and what they wanted a Syracuse football player to be.”Last year, Whitner observed senior linebackers Paris Bennett and Zaire Franklin. He hopes to mimic Bennett’s quick feet while also channeling the disruptive nature of Franklin in opposing backfields.His experience at multiple spots on the defense only helps when understanding his new position, Whitner said. He compared his role as a linebacker to that of a strong safety rolling down into the box.“He’s very, very intelligent and he cares,” head coach Dino Babers said. “The way he prepares and stuff, the things he does off the field, makes him a better him on the field.”Babers declined to name the starting linebackers during his last press conference of the preseason, leaving no clear indication that Whitner won the position battle.Regardless, Whitner is in a better place now. In his Twitter bio, he links to a different Bible passage. Matthew 6:33 reads:But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.“All this adversity, there’s not really anything I can do worrying about it or anything like that, so I’ve been at a good place,” Whitner said. “I just feel like in everything I do in my life, it’s most important if I focus on what God wants to in that situation rather than my own personal gain.”Cover photo by Paul Schlesinger | Staff Photographer Two gold chains hang from Kielan Whitner’s neck. One dangles a block letter 25 his father gave him, and a cross. The other, resting further down his torso, carries a Miraculous Medal formerly worn by Whitner’s great-grandfather.The back of the medal displays an “M” merged with a cross, surrounded by stars, which represents the 12 apostles. On the front is an image of the Virgin Mary bordered by a message inscribed:O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.The self-proclaimed “mama’s boy” is a regular at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse. A senior at Syracuse, Whitner has had the same friends since grade school, and he’s never removed the rastafarian colored friendship bracelet on his left wrist, given to him on a mission trip in Haiti in summer 2015.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn Whitner’s freshman season at SU in 2015, he led all freshmen with 33 tackles. He entered 2016 fall camp as the starting strong safety, but finished the year with only three starts. In 2017, he switched positions to outside linebacker before moving back to safety in a supplemental role, tallying eight tackles on the season.This year, the senior is slotted as the starting weakside linebacker, his third position in four years.“You want to be that guy,” Whitner said. “Just, you know, being able to stay the course and contribute as much as I could to this team without trying to be selfish.”At the start of high school, Whitner and a group of friends agreed to attend Mountain View (Georgia) High School together. Built in 2009, the high school was new to Class 6A football.David Salanitri | Staff Photographercenter_img Commentslast_img read more