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Written by: Clara Richards ’24

As Andrew Whitaker puts on his football pads or lines up in the starting blocks on the track, he’s an intimidating competitor even before knowing his long athletic resume: 2022 national indoor track champion in the 60-meter hurdles, CoSIDA Academic All-American, leading the Football team in interceptions, and NFF Campbell Trophy Semifinalist.

Above all else, he’s brimming with confidence. It’s not cockiness or complacency—it’s a true self-belief. He doesn’t let self-doubt get in the way as he prepares to compete; there are no ‘what-ifs’ for the fifth-year Biomedical Engineering Masters student as he steps out to represent Washington University in football or track and field. It’s something that has propelled him to a national title as an underdog in the event.  It’s helped him on the football field as he started all 11 season games as a defensive back for the Bears. His accomplishments speak for themselves: now, he’ll have to trust that NFL scouts will believe in that conviction as Whitaker approaches the draft. 

Whitaker was recruited to WashU by previous Head Coach Larry Kindbom primarily as a football athlete: “My love is where football is,” he said. He picked the University for the opportunity to get a world-class degree combined with the flexibility that WashU Athletics offered. In exploring his opportunities as an athlete, he found track as an outlet to keep competing all year long. “I was in love with the culture. I fell in love with the energy,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like practice; it feels like fun.” 

That desire to compete took him to the highest stage in Division III, and becoming a national champion is a memory that will stick in Whitaker’s head for a while.  He competed in the 60-meter hurdles in a final heat that Head Coach Jeff Stiles described as a David versus Goliath race. Whitaker was never the favorite coming in, but he dropped .07 seconds to record a personal best on his way to the title.

 “You can only control what you can control, but you just have to have that confidence. You’ve visualized it, and you’ve worked for it,” Whitaker said. “There was just something inside me that was like, ‘There’s too many people counting on me for me to fail.'” Others would have crumbled under the pressure, but Whitaker soared instead, scoring an individual ten points and an additional 8 points as a member of the 4×400 relay team that netted the Bears the team title. 

The greater WashU community might only know Whitaker from his accolades, but his teammates have witnessed the constant pursuit of excellence.  Matt Moore has been Whitaker’s teammate for four years, and he’s learned to not be surprised by his teammate’s work ethic. Moore went to the track late one evening; it was raining, and he wasn’t even sure if the track team would have a season because of COVID-19. He thought he’d be the only one practicing in the cold rain, but as he walked out of the AC, Whitaker was out on the field warming up. “Compare him to Kobe Bryant—he’s never going to be outworked by anybody,” Moore said. “Whatever ends up happening, he’s going to go into the competition knowing that he’s not scared to compete against anyone.” 

On a typical spring day, Whitaker sets his alarm at 5:45 for 6:30 a.m. practice. Spring football practice entails drills and a full practice running …….

Source: https://bearsports.wustl.edu/sports/fball/2021-22/releases/20220426jpljkn

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