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Texas WR Jordan Whittington trusted his mind, body and faith while battling injuries

Now healthy again, Whittington said, ‘This spring has been a real eye-opener for me just as much as I've developed as a receiver’

Texas receiver Jordan Whittington had a career-high 10 catches for 65 yards against Oklahoma last season, but so far his UT career has been plagued with injuries. He's in his third season, having just played in six games.

Jordan Whittington’s mind is far more durable than his body.

When Texas coaches wondered about his ability to stay healthy, he just kept working. When fans henpecked him on social media, Whittington showed keyboard-proof positivity.

Now in his third season with just six games on his college ledger, Whittington is eager to show everyone that there’s still a dynamic playmaker inside that chiseled 6-foot-1, 206-pound frame.

“You know, my body’s been feeling amazing,” Whittington said after Tuesday’s practice. “The offense is great. And I think this spring has been a real eye-opener for me just as much as I've developed as a receiver and just seeing this offense and what it can do, it's going to be amazing.”

READ: Texas coach Steve Sarkisian sorting through who has big-play potential for new offense

Whittington was a superstar at Cuero. It was assumed he’d come to Texas and keep it going. But he aggravated a sports hernia injury first suffered in high school and essentially needed it fixed once and for all. He ended up redshirting in 2019.

Last season, Whittington started the opener and then missed two games. He returned against Oklahoma and caught a career-high 10 passes for 65 yards. But then he missed the next three games because of another injury. 

Finally in the Alamo Bowl, Whittington caught three passes for 35 yards and had a 20-yard run against Colorado.

“Oh, yeah, the first two years were very frustrating,” Whittington said. “And I went through a dark time. I just kept my trust in God, and I told myself, if I’m going to quit, God’s going to have to literally walk in my room and tell me if this isn’t what is for me. So, I’m just still going, and I feel like I’m on the bright side. I'm glad I didn't stop going.”

Texas receiver Jordan Whittington played in only five games in 2020 as injuries kept him sidelined for half the season. He caught three passes for 35 yards against Kansas State.

The stars appear to be aligning for Whittington’s athletic rebirth. New coach Steve Sarkisian has praised him at various points this spring. It seems like Whittington would be the perfect athlete for a coach who likes to move players around to create mismatches. 

“I really like Jordan,” Sarkisian said on April 10. “From the day I got here, he’s done everything I’ve asked. He’s part of our leadership committee. He’s a guy who’s really learned our system well, is probably the furthest along of understanding, can play multiple positions at the wide receiver position right now.

“We're aware of some of the injuries he's had in the past,” Sarkisian added. “But again, like I said, when I first got here was a clean slate. And what you are now is who you are in our eyes, and Jordan has been off to a great start for us.”

More:Texas LB David Gbenda impressing teammates, himself and even the head coach

Sarkisian wants players catching the ball on the move. That sounds right in Whittington’s wheelhouse. This is still the same athlete who had 5,400 all-purpose yards and 60 touchdowns his final three seasons at Cuero.

“He’s an explosive play-caller, and you need explosive players,” Whittington said. “And I think, just getting put in the right position. He'll put you in one-on-ones. I just got a window. If I do that, then we'll be great.”

Sarkisian has made it clear he demands players know and understand their playbooks. It sounds basic, but coaches will look past certain things for supremely talented players. 

Whittington is one of the few players this spring that explained his learning process.

“I take notes on everything; I pay attention,” he said. “When I’m not going, I’m watching the play ahead of me when I’m out. And I’m just watching everything, learning it by the concept and not my individual thing. 

“And also I’m just forcing myself to learn,” he added. “Sometimes I’ll purposely not write it down to force myself to remember. So that’s basically how I do it. Everybody has their own ways, but that's what's been best for me so far.”

Whittington has some straightforward goals this season. He wants to play every game with no dropped passes while helping Texas reach the Big 12 championship.

More:Who will be the next Texas QB? Coach Steve Sarkisian playing it close to the burnt-orange vest

Whittington said he trusts his body and is ready to go full speed ahead.

“Honestly, I felt like I’ve always been able to trust it,” Whittington said. “I’ve just been put in unfortunate situations. I’ve never played (thinking), ‘Man, I might get hurt this down.’ Ultimately that’s how you get hurt. So I let it loose every time, and through the grace of God, I’ll stay healthy. And I feel way better.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.