Springstead's multi-sport star will enroll at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy to play football and whatever else he can. He hopes to end up at UCF.
Huey Whittaker knows that Hudson Valley Community College is a long way from Spring Hill, but if he has to leave Florida to find success on the college level, he's willing to do that.
Whittaker, a first-team All-North Suncoast selection after he caught 10 touchdown passes during his senior year at Springstead, will report to the tiny campus in Troy, N.Y., this week with the hopes of returning to the state to play Division I football in a year or two.
It's a low-profile choice for Whittaker, who also was the North Suncoast athlete of the year in boys track this spring and played for the Eagles basketball team. Ideally, Whittaker would wind up at the University of Central Florida after a year at Hudson Valley, but for now, he's excited about the chance to play football in an offense that can showcase his 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame.
"The coach there says they throw about 30 times a game," said Whittaker, who expects to see significant playing time as a freshman. "He said it's going to be very hard to keep me off the field, so I'm anxious to show everyone what I can do."
Whittaker finished his senior season at Springstead with 36 catches for 902 yards, averaging better than 25 yards a catch. His name was linked to schools like South Carolina, Auburn and Tulane, but he didn't get the necessary entrance exam scores to meet NCAA eligibility requirements until a month after signing day, when most colleges had already used up their available scholarships.
Central Florida coaches have expressed the greatest interest in him, he said, and he hopes to return to the state as a Golden Knight once he clears any remaining academic hurdles at Hudson.
"Central Florida would be just right for me _ not too big, not too small and still close to home," said Whittaker, who already has an apartment set up in New York.
If Whittaker can put up numbers close to what he did last year, he should have plenty of options once he's finished at Hudson. Springstead coach Bill Vonada said Whittaker has a great build for a receiver and the right attitude to go with it.
"He has a whole lot of athletic ability," Vonada said. "As a receiver, he plays with an attack-style mentality. He doesn't passively run a route and hope the ball gets there. He goes after it."
Whittaker's height gives him a distinct advantage over most defensive backs, but Vonada said his speed is what separates him (quite literally) from everyone else on the field.
"He has a deadly combo," Vonada said. "He's fast _ faster than I would have believed. And at 6-foot-5, he can jump, and he played some basketball; he has an idea of positioning himself."
Whittaker won't be able to run track at Hudson, but he said he's interested in playing for the college's basketball team. Vonada thinks his college football career could very well mirror his high school career, when he came in quietly and left as a team leader. "He stepped it up a lot last year," Vonada said. "People really began taking him seriously. And if he goes to a college where he is relatively unknown, he can still do great things and he can prove himself."