Trent Whittemore has only ever had his sights set on one goal. He came of age just a few miles down the street from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. He patiently waited for that call from the University of Florida.
David Reese ambled toward the football field with a nervous kink in his stride.
“It’s always kinda been a dream of mine,” Whittemore, a three-star safety from F.W. Buchholz High School, said. “Growing up a Gator fan, when you’re little, kind of dreaming about playing in the Swamp.”
On May 22, 2017, that call finally came. He committed to join UF’s 2019 recruiting class less than a week later.
“When the opportunity came to make it a reality it was definitely something I wanted,” Whittemore said. “I’ve had a lot of family go to UF so I think that played a big part. It was just a legacy I wanted to carry on real bad so it meant a lot to me.”
He made the decision to follow in his mother’s, grandfather’s and great grandfather’s steps to become a Florida Gator.
Less than six months later, Jim McElwain – whose staff recruited Whittemore – was bought out of his contract following a rocky start to the 2017 season. The coaching change left many recruits in the dark before former Florida offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen was hired away from Mississippi State in late November.
“At first, it was a little shocking to see somebody can go from signing an extension to being fired like real fast,” Whittemore said.
Whittemore has been coached by his father, Mark, his entire life. Committing to play under McElwain was a big decision – staying on through a regime change took even more trust.
“I was just kinda patient with the new staff,” Whittemore said. “They were busy doing 2018 stuff during January. I started talking to them a lot more in February and they were real cool with me. If they were gonna honor my commitment, I was gonna stay with it.”
Mullen preached a winning culture, and, so far, he has delivered on that.
“I just really liked the atmosphere that they had going on,” Whittemore said. “I liked that they came in with a lot of confidence as a staff and just saying, ‘We’re gonna win here.’ Not saying, ‘It might happen,’ (but rather) ‘It’s gonna happen.’ I liked that a lot, so that’s really what sold me.”
Soon enough, Whittemore was helping out in the recruiting process. He takes note of 2019 and 2020 prospects on the Bobcats’ schedule and makes sure to give them his own recruiting pitch.
Whittemore is the longest-standing recruit in the 2019 class, having been verbally committed to Florida for 16 months. The class is currently the 22nd best in the nation with 15 commits, per 247sports.
That standing has the potential to skyrocket depending on the results of Mullen’s first season at the helm in the Swamp. As for the early returns, Whittemore is buying in.
“I like the fact that we’re leading the nation in turnovers forced,” he said. “I like that we’ve got special teams working in a big way, and I like the fact that they’ve stayed consistent to what they’re trying to do.”
(At the time of this interview, Florida led the nation in turnovers forced. The Gators are now second in the nation to Kansas.)
Although Whittemore primarily plays safety for his high school, he is unsure which side of the ball he will play on for the Gators.
“I know both sides of the ball really have good schemes and I could be a good fit in both.”
He will graduate from Buchholz in the spring and be on campus soon after for summer camp.
When asked what his message for Gator nation was, Whittemore’s reply was simple.
“I’m a hard worker and I’m gonna give it all to my university.”
Follow Kyle Wood on Twitter @Kkylewood or contact him at [email protected].
Correction: F.W. Buchholz High School's mascot was corrected from Wildcats to Bobcats.