Whitlow succeeding in short time at Eastern


Jason Howell

Senior quarterback Jalen Whitlow was 10-19 in passing and ran for six yards during the Panthers’ 41-0 defeat by Northwestern on Sept. 12 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.

Maria Baldwin, Staff Reporter

Jalen Whitlow was born to play football.

‘’Growing up in the south, football is really big and everybody plays. ‘’ Whitlow said. ‘’My dad played football and was a coach and that had an impact on me.’’

Whitlow, raised in Montgomery, Ala., started his college career at the University of Kentucky before transferring to Eastern his junior year.

The transition from a Southeastern Conference university to an Ohio Valley Conference university was no challenge for Whitlow.

‘’It was a transition because Eastern Illinois is a smaller school, and Kentucky is a much bigger school in a much bigger town.’’ Whitlow said. ‘’I remember one of my classes had over 500 people in it. It’s a big jump and you just have to adjust socially in the classroom.’’

On the football field, however, Whitlow just focused on football.

‘’On the field, it’s not that much of a difference. ‘’ Whitlow said. ‘’In the SEC the players are a little bigger or a little faster, but once you get on the field on a Saturday it’s just football.”

Whitlow’s mentality showed in his first season at Eastern in 2014.

He was named second team All-Ohio Valley Conference and to the OVC All-Newcomer Team when he was named the OVC Newcomer of the Week six times.

Whitlow is ranked 27th in the FCS in total offense and 30th in the FCS in rushing touchdowns.

Whitlow continued to set three school records for Eastern as well, in single season rushing yards by a quarterback with 792, the single game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 137, and the school record for consecutive passes without an interception at 163 consecutive passes.

This year, Whitlow was added to the College Football Performance Awards FCS National Performer of the Year Watch List.

Whitlow works as hard in the off-season as he does in-season to perfect his game.

‘’I work on everything in the off-season, from the physical aspect to the mental aspect.’’ Whitlow said. ‘’Physically, I work on my footwork and repetitious throwing. For the mental aspect, I watch film to learn more defenses so I can incorporate that in my game once I see different opponents.’’

So far this season, Whitlow has passed for one touchdown and rushed for another.

Whitlow has thrown for 386 yards and has rushed for a total of 89 yards.

Whitlow’s best completion percentage was against Illinois State with a percentage of 57.1 percent.

Whitlow plans to continue to improve throughout his last season.

‘’Throughout the season I would like to improve on the little things, like my footwork, my pocket ability, throwing within the pocket, and I feel we could improve on the run game.’’ Whitlow said. ‘’I feel like the last couple games I left some big plays out there. I’m going to work on that and get better, on to the next.’’

Whitlow’s favorite target thus far is junior Isiah Nelson, who currently leads the Panthers with 11 completions and a total of 167 receiving yards with a 15.2 average. Junior Devin Church follows Nelson with 10 completions and 77 receiving yards.

The Panthers have a current season record of 0-3 but hope to get their first win of the season this weekend against Austin Peay University, which would also cap their first conference win of the season.

Whitlow knows what it will take for him and the rest of the team to get their first win.

‘’We have to fight through adversity. We’ve seen adversity the first couple games we lost. ‘’ Whitlow said. ‘’But even in the Illinois State game we were losing and our offense came back. We had a lot of good drives that game, and a lot of positives came out of it. We just need to fight through adversity and stay positive and good things will happen.’’

The Panthers have no shortage of goals as they continue their season and are staying motivated and focused on their goals.

‘’Our motivation comes from within.’’ Whitlow said. ‘’What happened previously the past couple weeks motivates us enough to want to go out there and win. Winning conference is our first goal, and making the playoffs is our seconds goal.’’

Eastern coach Kim Dameron has grown accustomed to Whitlow’s strategies as leader of the offense.

‘’Jalen brings experience, athleticism and he brings a calmness to our offense.’’ Dameron said. ‘’He leads in his way, sometimes vocally, sometimes in his actions. He has a calming effect.’’

Whitlow knows his role on the field, and as a member of the community.

‘’I like the responsibility of being a quarterback. It keeps you grounded. You have to be focused at all times because people look up to you as their leader.’’ Whitlow said.

Whitlow understands the impact he has on the community.

‘’You have to be grounded and a good citizen,” Whitlow said. “It makes you a better person because even through the negatives people may blame you, but when the positives come you have to keep a level-head and be humble.’’

Eastern Illinois football is set to play Oct. 3 against Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn.


Maria Baldwin can be reached at [email protected]