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Creston Whitaker: His living legacy

Avery Dugan, Staff Writer

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“A BOY can set a goal, but it takes a MAN to achieve it.” Creston Whitaker, Jacksonville High School class of 1965, was a standout three-sport athlete. He was a key factor for the Crimsons in the first ever JHS undefeated football team, Itchy Jones’s state basketball team, and the state baseball team. Whitaker thought very highly of his 1965 class as he said, “Most classes would have one or maybe two good athletes. But we had so many athletes, twelve to fourteen, who played and exceeded in all three sports.” Whitaker remembers Coach Jones always used to say, “The bus is leaving at 4:30, on, off, or chasing.” Some may think he was kidding, but Creston remembers people being left at the gym because they were late.

Whitaker had a very important learning experience his freshman year of high school when Dean Farmer stood up for him after a junior varsity football game. The team went to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant. When the manager of the place came up to the coaches and said they would serve everybody but Creston would have to eat on the bus, Dean and the team got up and left the restaurant and went home. Whitaker said, “It was a very long and hungry bus ride back.”

After Whitaker’s very successful high school career, he played basketball at Southern Illinois University (SIU). At SIU Whitaker played with Walt Frazier and Dick Garrett, two players that would later go to the National Basketball Association (NBA). In 1967 the Salukis competed and won the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). After a couple years at SIU, he transferred to North Texas State University and competed for their basketball team. In his four years in college, Creston scored over a thousand points, which is a very impressive stat for anybody.

After college Whitaker went to play football for the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints. Whitaker recorded one reception for six yards in his time in the National Football League (NFL). Whitaker also played in the Hall of Fame game that takes a place once a year; he played in the game with the LA Rams. Shortly after his entrance into the NFL, he would exit due to an injury.

Whitaker settled down in Dallas, Texas, as a fireman. He has a son who went on to have a very good athletic career at the University of Illinois with Itchy Jones and the baseball team. He followed in his dad’s steps and became a fireman; he is now studying to be a lieutenant. Creston also has a daughter who plays at Baylor University and was the point guard for the Baylor basketball team. She is in her second year of law school and is a US Marshall for North Texas. Whitaker retired as a lieutenant from the Dallas fire department.

Whitaker says he learned much about life from sports. One example is the jersey rule: Always support the person with the same color shirt on, a team concept that is built in sports. You will always be successful if you support the person in the same color jersey as you.

Creston really enjoys visiting Jacksonville and his family. He says it will always be home for him. It also brings back many good memories and an appreciation that he didn’t have when he was younger.

Many know about Creston Whitaker, but he was not the only standout athlete in the family. Creston’s brother Carland was also a very good football and track athlete. (He was a co-captain for his track and field team). He had the low-hurdle record at JHS with a time of 19.9 seconds. Carland was part of the 1963 8-1 football team as well. He thought very highly of Jacksonville’s education and community as he said, “My education was better than everyone I met, even some private school boys.” Carland also enjoyed reading and writing. He later went on to Western Illinois University (WIU) and studied journalism. At WIU he became a national champion in the low hurdles in 1967. He was also named to the  All-American Track and Field team. As Carland looks back on his days at JHS, some of his favorite memories included breaking the low-hurdle record, playing on a very good football team, having a great time at homecoming, and getting a great education here at JHS.

Although an athlete from the 1960’s may not seem too impressive with all the upgrades in the sports world, Creston is still considered one of the greats to come out of Jacksonville High School if you look at all of the statistics.

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Creston Whitaker: His living legacy