George Whitfield Jr. serves as an on-field coach with the Elite 11, having trained the likes of Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Jameis Winston through their pre-draft process.
But on the penultimate night of the 2021 Elite 11 Finals, Whitfield strayed away from the x’s and o’s.
The finalists expected a brief meeting ahead of the seven-on-seven tournament the following morning.
Instead, Whitfield dimmed the lights and cued up a video:
“You weren’t expecting that were you?” Whitfield said.
Whitfield spent the next hour-and-a-half of his ‘Kitchen Table Talk’ pouring into the finalists. He challenged them to open up, to be more than athletes.
Whitfield’s ‘Kitchen Table’
If the family home feels like the safest place on Earth, the kitchen table’s the most sacred. It’s where connection breeds a space to share lessons, dreams, and fears.
“The best way to know someone is to know their kitchen table,” Whitfield said.
And Whitfield wanted this conversation among the finalists to be their kitchen table with connection as the overarching theme of this year’s Elite 11.
Following the death of George Floyd, the Elite 11 coaching staff met virtually via Zoom for four-and-a-half hours.
“It was tough to move,” Whitfield said.
Not all the coaches saw eye-to-eye on a number of topics raised.
At 43-years-old, Whitfield said racial inequality feels like the greatest American challenge of his lifetime.
But, whom he serves, which are quarterbacks, have the opportunity to resolve this issue because Whitfield believes they are the most influential people across the United States.
Character training with quarterbacks runs right up Whitfield’s alley, who oversees a “Commander Camp” in California that exposes them to principles of leadership from the military.
Past camps included work with Navy SEALs.
“Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?” Whitfield said.
In other words, there are individuals who acclimate themselves to their surroundings or leaders who set the tone of their environment.
Almost every finalist in the room raised their hands when asked if they’ll be enrolling early into college, which stunned the coaches.
“There will be some of you entering championship cultures trying to keep up,” Whitfield said. “And then others working in places less than where you’re clearing the rubble.”
Either way, Whitfield told the finalists to “take it over.” And it’ll be their obligation to earn respect not only on the field but off of it as well.
“There’s no such thing as being flat-footed,” Whitfield said. “You’ve got to define yourself for yourself.”
Power of the Jersey
Whitfield sought to arm the finalists with tools to advance social justice initiatives in their own communities.
“The idea is to go forward together,” Whitfield said.
Clemson commit Cade Klubnik who plays for Austin Westlake in Texas on a predominantly White football team spoke with Whitfield for an additional 20 to 25 minutes after the seminar for more guidance.
And according to Whitfield, the finalists may not know 90 percent of their peers in high school, but 90 percent know who the quarterback is.
2 of the 20 finalists know the name of the mayor in their hometown; Whitfield said the mayors probably know who they are.
“You’re built for this,” Whitfield said. “You are the most impactful person in your community.”
Featured Image Via George Whitfield Jr. Twitter