SDSU football’s J.J. Whittaker providing security on and off the field

by Ryan Posner, Assistant Sports Editor

Most of the time when a college student spends six years in school, it’s not a joyous occasion. 

That’s not the case for San Diego State’s sixth year cornerback J.J. Whittaker. 

It hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies, though, for 5-foot-10, 180-pound defensive back out of local Oceanside High School. 

Whittaker didn’t play a snap in his first three years on the Mesa after suffering back-to-back knee injuries in 2010-11 and then broke his scapula during the team’s fall scrimmage in 2012. 

Making it even more disappointing was the fact that he was a celebrated three-star recruit who had turned down scholarship offers from many other schools but chose to stick with the hometown team.

Most players might hang up the cleats by that point, but Whittaker has gone on to start every game since the 2013 season, racking up accolades that were three years in the making. 

Last season he earned second team all-Mountain West honors by the league’s media and coaches after being an honorable mention all-MW pick in 2013.

He was also granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA because of his troubled injury history, which gave him an academic opportunity he may not have had previously. 

After graduating with a criminal justice degree in 2014, Whitaker began working towards his Master’s in homeland security. 

“It’s a blessing in disguise, being here for my sixth year in school,” Whittaker said. “I’m getting the best of both worlds, playing football and expanding my horizons.” 

Whittaker said that he decided to choose homeland security thanks to suggestions from former students and professors who said that it was an up-and-coming graduate program. 

He also credits Dr. Eric Frost, the director of the graduate program in homeland security, for inspiring him.

Frost said that Whittaker is a huge credit to not only the homeland security program, but also SDSU as a whole, in an email to The Daily Aztec.

“I met with Dr. Frost and that man is a genius,” Whittaker said. “He definitely played a huge role in me picking homeland security. I love talking to that man, he’s definitely been a huge help.” 

Ironically, the man tasked with securing the Aztec end zone, was now learning security protocols on a national scale. 

And for Whittaker, some of the talks he has had with Dr. Frost have carried over to help him on the football field. 

“We talk about things (regarding football) all the time, like security measures and things like that,” Whittaker said. “It’s a different outlook on playing the game. Dr. Frost definitely opened my mind, not just playing the game, but also for things that are going on in the (United States).” 

Providing security to the SDSU football team is nothing new to Whittaker. 

After being named a captain by his teammates last season, he was again given the honor this year. 

He’s the first SDSU football player to be named a captain two seasons in a row since Russell Allen did it in 2007-08

“I’m very proud and honored to be voted to this spot by my teammates,” he said. “It’s a team game so coming from them, it means a lot.” 

On the field, Whittaker has a calm, cool demeanor, which is not always the case for football players. 

For him, it’s a lead by example method that he uses to hopefully get the most out of his teammates. 

Whittaker could routinely be seen staying late after practice during the team’s fall camp to watch and scout some of the younger defensive backs and spread some wisdom during his last season as an Aztec.

“Being a captain, I got to do everything right and lead by example,” Whittaker said. “You can’t lead when you’re doing stuff wrong. You got to do things right on and off the field.” 

Joining Whittaker as a captain is another former Oceanside High player who has run into plenty of injury problems of his own, senior linebacker Jake Fely. 

Like Whittaker, Fely was a celebrated prospect but has been hindered by countless injuries and hasn’t played a full season since 2012.  Now, both players are healthy to begin a season for the first time since 2013.

Whittaker believes it’s a huge credit to the city of Oceanside that two of its homegrown talents are now shining for SDSU, but being leaders is nothing new for the duo. 

“I’ve been playing with Jake since sixth grade and we were always kind of just natural born leaders,” Whittaker said. “Something like (being a captain) isn’t new to us. Whether we are captains or not, we’re going to be leaders out there.” 

So now, during his sixth year on campus, you won’t find Whittaker pouting about the injuries that have kept him here for an extended period of time. 

You’ll find him providing security and leadership for his teammates on the football field at the moment, and possibly the American people in the future.