Shaquan Whitaker hopes to play for the NFL but he has several back-up plans

(Angel Grady)

Shaquan Whitaker, cornerback for the Saddleback Gauchos, focuses on improving and becoming a better football player. (Angel Grady/Lariat)

Shaquan Whitaker, the cornerback of the Saddleback College Gauchos football team, and hopefully soon-to-be NFL player, is not concerned about injuring himself.

About 100 athletes have suffered football-related injuries, some out indefinitely, according to statistics published by the Columbus Dispatch.

“I don’t worry about getting injured at all because I feel like I’m not going to, but if I do I’ll just bounce up again… It’s a part of the game, it’s fine,” Whitaker said. “I’m more thinking about winning or making a play.”

Whitaker’s right. Winning the game is more important than worrying about what may happen. For this “glass half full” kind of guy, Whitaker is sure to snatch up chances when they arise.

Whitaker came to California in June 2014 from St. Louis, Missouri because there were better opportunities and “it’s a great place to live.” The only drawback, he said, was moving away from the people he loved.

“I miss my family. I have four sisters and three brothers, there are a lot of us,” Whitaker said. “I was always independent and I knew that I would always be able to talk to them. They would be there for me and they knew that this was the best decision I could’ve made. They supported me. I miss them all the time, though.”

He didn’t know anyone out here. The reason Whitaker decided to come to Saddleback College is because he had a friend who was going to move to California, too. They were both planning on joining the Gauchos together, however at the last minute, his friend changed his mind.

“But I stuck with the plan because I talked to the coach,” Whitaker said.

It’s a good thing Whitaker decided to move out to Mission Viejo, though.

He said the progression of the learning curve continues to advance.

“This season has been going really well. Each week, I’ve been more focused on improving and becoming a better team player,” he said.

Whitaker started playing football in the eighth grade. His mother signed him up for a flag football team, and although he didn’t expect to like it, he ended up loving it. Since then, Whitaker played football in high school, now in college, and plans to play for the NFL at some point.

The objective is to play professional ball, but Whitaker has several back-up plans.

“I plan to take [football] as far as I can,” Whitaker said. [But if that doesn’t happen,] “I want to own a classic clothing business. Like, formal menswear because I feel like, as a man, that’s something that’s important. The way you dress shows your image, especially if you’re in a business. But for me, right now, I dress like this [sweatpants and a T-shirt] because I’m a football player and I can.”

If, for some strange reason, neither of these plans work out, Whitaker would want to rap.

“I would be a singer. Like, good music. I don’t play anything, but I like music. I know how to rap, “Whitaker said. “I like a lot of different music, so if I made music, it wouldn’t be, like, too hard-core like rap would, and it wouldn’t be like jazz, it would be somewhere right in the middle. Something good.”

However, for the moment, Whitaker works at the information desk in the Learning Resource Center for extra money. It’s the perfect job that fits into his schedule and it’s not too stressful.

As the  interview “rapped” up,  Whitaker explained what he liked best about football at Saddleback.

“The thing that stuck out to me this season is the bond that we have this year. Our teammates, all of us, we have a really close bond,” Whitaker said. “We’re all like a band of brothers which makes us play harder and play better, not only for ourselves, but for each other as well.”