Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

No solo trek to college for Countryside's Kee Whetzel

CLEARWATER — In two weeks, Countryside High's Kee Whetzel will stand at a table in the school's media center to make his college selection. On a table will be baseball caps from his top three schools: Arizona, UCF and Maryland.

By the time Whetzel bends the visor on his favored cap, signifying his choice, he will have completed an unlikely journey from unknown prospect who started playing football just five years ago to one of the most coveted prospects in the country.

"It's been a whirlwind trying to find the right fit, the right home," he said.

Truth be told, Whetzel found one long before whittling down a short list of schools among his 15-plus offers.

Whetzel's childhood was rough. His mother put him and his five brothers up for adoption when he was 4.

"My mother did drugs; she had different boyfriends," he said. "We all have different fathers."

He bounced from foster home to foster home until he was adopted at age 5 by Wayne and Karla Whetzel. The couple first adopted Kee and his younger brother, Deondre.

"Their smiles were just infectious," Wayne said.

Three years later, the Whetzels adopted older brothers Brian and Trey.

"We kept praying about the situation and bringing them together," Wayne said. "We prayed so much, we kept adding to our family.

"It's been a blessing."

The Whetzels did not stop there. They adopted Josiah, the lone brother not biologically related to Kee and the rest.

Kee's other two brothers were adopted by another local family.

"We couldn't have children, so this is the route we took," said Wayne, who works for Walt Disney World and makes the commute to Orlando each week. Karla stays at home with the boys.

"We were all new to this as parents and had a family that kept growing. We're not rich by any means, but we had enough to make it work and provide as much love and support as possible."

Kee did not get involved in sports until the eighth grade, when he was encouraged by friends, including Countryside quarterback Trent Chmelik, to go out for football.

Kee played at the youth-league level for two years before becoming Countryside's junior varsity quarterback as a sophomore. Most recently he has played on both sides of the ball as a linebacker/receiver.

Kee also played basketball as a sophomore and junior mostly because Trey was on the team. He gave up the sport this year to concentrate on football.

The football offers from colleges started coming in last season. Interest continued to grow during a stellar senior season in which he had 58 catches for 1,078 yards and a school-record 12 touchdown receptions.

Last week he played in the Blue-Grey All-American Game in Jacksonville and had a 70-yard touchdown catch.

Now it's time to concentrate on which school to pick. He has had in-home visits with coaches from UCF and Maryland. For the next two weeks he's scheduling visits to his top schools.

"This is all setting up for a big day for me," Kee said. "It's going to be very emotional. I know my entire family will be there."

Wayne said that wherever Kee decides to go, he will be at as many games as possible, family in tow.

"You would think with all this attention, he would have a big head," Wayne said. "But that's not Kee. He's incredibly down to earth. I don't know anyone who dislikes him.

"We wouldn't miss any of his college games for the world. I'll be right there, yelling 'That's my boy.' "

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