Whitney heads to Arizona juco

Saturday, August 9, 2003

Former Jackson High School star running back Mario Whitney, saying he needed a fresh start somewhere far away from home, is giving the state of Arizona a try -- and he hopes to have more football in his future.

Whitney, who originally signed with the University of Missouri before leaving school in February and later considered transferring to Southeast Missouri State University, recently moved to Scottsdale, Ariz.

Whitney told the Southeast Missourian on Friday that he plans to attend Scottsdale Community College, a two-year school, and hopes to join its nationally prominent football program, although he likely won't have enough credits to be eligible this season.

"I'm hoping to get back into football, but my biggest thing now is I just want to get an education," Whitney said. "I've talked to the coach, and I'm pretty sure I won't be eligible this year, but hopefully I'll be able to practice with the team and then play my second year. Then hopefully I'll be able to get another scholarship to a four-year school."

Whitney said he decided to head west when he learned a friend of his planned to move to Arizona.

"I figured it would be a nice place to go, a nice area," Whitney said. "So far I like it here."

Whitney said in March he planned to transfer to Southeast, where he also would have been academically ineligible to play this year. But he changed his mind.

"I was really serious about that. I was enrolled for summer classes and everything," he said. "But then I thought I needed to get away from the area. It's too comfortable for me. I figured I needed to get a fresh start."

A 2002 Jackson graduate, Whitney was the state's top recruit as a senior when he rushed for 2,782 yards, including a state single-game record 463 yards against Parkway North. In his high school career, Whitney gained 5,027 yards and scored 90 touchdowns.

Missouri beat some of the nation's premier programs to sign Whitney, and he went to Columbia amid much fanfare. Whitney played in two games for the Tigers last season, rushing for seven yards on five carries and returning two kickoffs for 45 yards. He suffered a shoulder injury and missed the rest of the campaign as a medical redshirt, then left school in February.

mmishow@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 132

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