BETHALTO — John Whitworth is going from an Eagle to a Hawk.
Quincy University is the next stop for the high-flying Civic Memorial High School running back.
The 6-foot, 175-pound senior, the AdVantage News’Football Player of the Year, signed Wednesday with Quincy University, a member of the Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Hawks finished 3-7 the past season.
“I’m just kind of giddy,” Whitworth said Wednesday. “I can’t stop smiling because I’m ready to play football again and Quincy’s a good school.”
The past fall, Whitworth played it well. He rambled for a school record 1,466 yards in leading the Eagles to a 7-3 record and their first playoff appearance in 5 years and their first winning record in 10 years. Whitworth tallied 19 touchdowns — 16 by rushing — in 10 games.
He smashed the previous single-season mark of 1,188 yards, established by Joe Odom in 1987. Odom, 1988 graduate, was the last Eagle to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He went on to play college football as a linebacker at Purdue and the same position with the Chicago Bears in the NFL.
Some other CM seniors going on to play college athletics include:
AdVantage News’ Girls' Golfer of the Year Sara Gwillim at Montreat College in Asheville, N. C.; 2013 and 2014 AdVantage News Girls' Cross Country Runner of the Year Alex Singleton, cross country and track at McKendree University in Lebanon; Alec Hilliard, boys’ golf at Missouri Baptist in Creve Coeur Mo.; Mackenzie Dixon, girls' soccer at SWIC; Ellie Cummins, girls' soccer at Greenville; Journey Coffman, girls’ basketball at Missouri Baptist and Kalyn Troxell, girls’ basketball at Illinois Central College in East Peoria.
Whitworth plans to run track for CM this spring. He previously played baseball, but he figures track will serve as a slingshot into the collegiate football season.
“It may help me to get a little faster,” Whitworth said of track.
Quincy football features a number of Southwestern Illinois players, including gridders from Carrollton, Brighton, Granite City, Collinsville, Belleville, O’Fallon, Freeburg and Red Bud.
“I like Quincy. It’s not a large town, but it’s a lot of like Edwardsville,” Whitworth said. “I didn’t want to be hours and hours away from home and I will be at a school where my parents can come and see me play.”
And he knows that his playing time will be based upon his performance.
“I could play my first year or they could redshirt me,” Whitworth said. “But they will give me a chance to compete. It will depend upon what’s best for the team. I don’t mind being redshirting, if that’s what they decide to do. I will take it day-by-day.”
He added, “I’ll definitely be a running back and they have talked about having me return kicks.”
He did it all for the Eagles, including returning kicks and catching passes. It’s no wonder Whitworth was chosen the Alton Knights of Columbus’ Offensive Back of the Year.
“He had a tremendous season,” said CM coach Mike Parmentier, an assistant for Justin Winslow last season. “Breaking Joe Odom’s rushing record speaks volumes about what he had. Every time he touched the ball, big things happened. He had a chance to break it for a touchdown.
“John was a game breaker, that’s for sure.”
Parmentier said the Eagles counted on Whitworth to fuel their high-octane offense.
“Coach Winslow was good at isolating him and John got 20-to-25 carries a game,” Parmentier said. “He was elusive and his strength and balance were really uncanny. Nobody could square up on him to make a tackle and it usually took two or three guys to bring him down.”
Whitworth said his development as a refined running back came from ample work during the off-season. He didn’t start as a junior, but wanted to make his mark as a senior.
“Coach (Jeff) Pickering worked with me a lot, taught me to lift weights and pumped me up mentally,” Whitworth said. “In my head, I was faster this season and I played with more confidence.”
His confidence grew and so did the Eagles. They proved to be a contender in the rugged Mississippi Valley Conference.
“I knew the team had the potential to do pretty much anything, especially with our group of offensive linemen,” Whitworth said.
What is the fondest memory of his spectacular season?
"Honestly, what I will remember the most is the bonds I built with my buddies on the team," Whitworth said.