Michael Whitley, who played High School ball in his home state of Louisiana, had to make an adjustment when he committed to Lakeland University in Wisconsin. That adjustment is now overshadowed by thousands of yards and dozens of accolades on the playing field. Adjusting to the brutal weather and conditions of the Midwest, was nothing compared to the way he dominated opponents through the air and on the ground.
Along his journey, Whitley has racked up accolades worthy of a Gagliardi nomination. The mobile man was a three-time NACC conference player of the year award winner. And, on top of all of that, Whitley was twice tabbed the Private College Player of the Year (2015, 2017).
In high school, Whit attended Vidalia High School for three years. A population of 5,000 and the muddy rivers of the Mississippi River nearby are just a snapshot of the kind of background he he is from. Rural. Hometown. Hard working people. It’s a short three hour drive from New Orleans. One of the cultural hubs of America. Michael is kind, calm and genuine. He’s the kind of man that provides everyone in the room with a little extra pep. The kind of man who seems to have the time and smile to go around.
“They have to find some way to stop this guy. I can’t even believe what I’m seeing. He has to be the best we’ve seen all year.” – 103.9-FM Adrian’s Ian Wendt on Whitley during the first quarter of an Adrian College football game at Lakeland University.
After struggling with knee problems in his Junior season of high school, the young quarterback transferred to Trinity Episcopal High School in Richmond, Virginia, to Trinity High. Whitley was like a video game. He led their varsity football team to a Mississippi Association of Independent School Class A state championship.
Whitley received an offer to play football at Louisiana College. A dream he had always had. He committed to the Pineville school on a Wednesday. The very next day however, fate came knocking. The four letter word came in the form of a call he received from then Lakeland University defensive coordinator, Colin Bruton.
LU and the Muskies sensed they may be in trouble, as their quarterbacks had all graduated or transferred. Michael saw this as an opportunity to make his mark on the program. After flying to the school for a visit, he decided he was in.
123-total-touchdowns | 9,345-passing-yards | 1,690-rushing-yards | 91-passing-touchdowns
Local media reported that Lakeland coach Kevin Doherty seemed to play favorites with the starting quarterback- which, at the time, was not the Freshman from Louisiana. Whitley completed 14-of-21 passes for 187 yards with no interceptions during his freshman year in Wisconsin. He rushed the ball 38 times for 237 yards. It was disappointing to see the field so little after having so much success at Trinity. Michael however, would not be deterred.
Over the course of the next season, Doherty accepted the offensive coordinator job and Director of Football Operations at Benedictine University in Illinois. Like a light switch, the legend was back on for the sophomore. Bruton took over as head coach, and with the staffing change, fate had its’ way after all. That season, Whitley set a school single-game record for total offense with 520 yards against- who else? Benedictine.
The quarterback threw a total of 25-interceptions during his time at Lakeland. A minuscule clip of error when weighed against his astonishing 123-total-touchdowns. He was unstoppable through the air and on the ground. He threw 91-touchdowns and rushed in for another 32. A stateliness that is more than most running backs could ever dream of achieving during their collegiate careers. Along the way to those scores, he passed for just shy of 10,000 yards- graduating with 9,345-passing-yards and 1,690-rushing-yards. This meant a grand total of 11,035-yards.
The Muskies offense finished his final year ranked in the top 10 in Division III in six team categories and five individual ones. This was highlighted by a second-place finish in the nation in total offense averaging 552.9 yards per game, second to only Oklahoma and Baker Mayfield. Lakeland’s offense was so powerful behind his arm and legs, that it set new NACC single-season records for rushing yards and passing yards.
“552.9 yards per game, second to only Oklahoma and Baker Mayfield”
School and conference records the scrambler set included most passing touchdowns in a game, when he had seven against Adrian on October 7th of 2017. He also set the record for most pass completions in a game when he had 48 against Hope on September 16th of 2017. He also has the longest pass in school history. The longest pass came when Whitley tossed a 99-yard touchdown score to Jamal Hawkins-Sconiers while they were playing Carroll on September 2nd of 2017. Whitley was an 11-time NACC Player of the Week award winner and three-time NACC Offensive Player of the Year award winner.
7-passing-touchdowns, 10-7-2019 | 48-passing-completions, 9-16-2017 | 99-yard-touchdown, 9-2-2017
Whitley didn’t miss a step. He had ten separate offers to play football overseas, and selected the Bremerhaven Seahawks as his next home. The harbor city in Germany bolstered a population near 100,000. They also spoke english as a second language. When Whitley arrived, Bremerhaven was 0-3. When he took over as the starting quarterback, the Seahawks won their next three games and finished the season at 7-7. The passer finished with 2,500 passing yards, 700 rushing and 31 total touchdowns in his single season.
Highlights used in this story are courtesy of Lakeland University Football. Photos used in this story are from Michael’s Facebook page. If you are a reporter or coach of a professional team, and would like to contact Michael, visit our contact page and we will gladly put you in touch.