That’s his effect. More than anything that emotion showed what Whittaker has meant to Texas football. It also showed how much Whittaker, who suffered a season-ending knee injury, would be missed.
Fozzy Whittaker had found a variety of ways to contribute to the Longhorns offense.
“He would lay down in the street for any one of us,” Gideon said. “The type of guy that he is … the type of character that Fozzy has and what he will do for anyone one of us, that just shows you the type of person he is and why all of us think so much of him.”
Whittaker is in their thoughts now because he can no longer be on the field with them. The senior leader, who had made every right step this season, made one ill-fated cut and went down in against Missouri.
“You don’t understand why he gets hit all year and on this play he didn’t get touched,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “He planted his foot and his knee went.”
“I felt it,” Whittaker said. “I just knew the way I planted, just feeling my knee buckle in and then kind of reposition itself back out it was kind of a nasty feeling.”
He didn’t blame the turf. He didn’t blame anyone. Whittaker had his mom, Gloria, come down to the locker room from the stands, place her hands on his knee and together they prayed about it.
A day later, it was Whittaker consoling his coach and his teammates. Typical Fozzy.
“Here he is picking up the 60-year-old who just lost some football game when his knee is torn up, and he'll have to have an operation, and he said, ‘Hey, let's go in there. We've got to beat Kansas State. Let's pick these guys up and let's move forward and see what we can do. I'll be fine. They're fixing these things better than ever before,’” Brown said.
That’s the thing about Whittaker, he has been there to pick the entire team up all year. In the two games when Texas needed a burst, there was Whittaker, who had never returned kicks before, going 100-plus yards for touchdowns.
When Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron needed someone to lean on, someone to help them find their way through the offense, there was Whittaker not just offering advice, but giving them carries, sharing the spotlight that should have been his.
On Monday, when he should have been depressed, angry, emotional, there was Whittaker maneuvering an orange scooter, knee wrapped and braced, smile plastered on his face, talking about a future in football administration, how he has six more hours to go to get his masters, saying don’t worry he’ll be fine.
“I'm not really the type to appear as immobilized as it seems,” he said with a nod to the scooter.
No he is not. Whittaker is someone, who regardless of what has been thrown in front of him, is always on the go. Life for him is not full of obstacles, but challenges. This is just the next one.
“I'm not really worried about Fozzy,” tight end Blaine Irby said. “I know that it sucks that he has had such a great career here, especially his senior year here, he really came out. But he's going to fine. Fozzy is a very strong individual and he's going to get through it.”
But can the team get through the last three games without Fozzy?
“It’s like you lose part of your heart and your soul,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said.
Diaz coaches defense. He doesn’t sit in on offensive meetings. He hasn’t been up close to see Whittaker bond with the freshmen. He is on the other side of the practice field from the offense most days, not even glancing at what is happening with the offense. And still he knows. He knows how much Whittaker meant to Texas.
They all know. And so too does Whittaker, which is why he has put on a brave face. He knows that this team, fragile as it is at this time, still needs him.
“I will still be out there with them,” Whittaker said. “I won’t be on the field obviously. I will be on the sidelines and they are going to make sure that I am still here and I'm still part of the team.
He never was one to fade. And now, because of him, his teammates are refusing to fade away as well.
“We have a cause in Fozzy,” guard Mason Walters said. “I am going to go out there and play my guts out for him.”