Buchholz's Whittemore honors commitment to Mississippi State after Mike Leach's death

Buchholz senior Creed Whittemore wasn't supposed to have to preface his signing-day speech on Tuesday afternoon.

But when Mississippi State football head coach Mike Leach died at the age of 61 late Monday night, Whittemore, who has been committed to the Bulldogs since Oct. 16, was left with no choice.

"I got to meet Coach Leach, who some of y'all may know, he passed this morning," Whittemore said to a standing-room only crowd at Buchholz's auditorium. "He was important to me. He gave me the opportunity to go play college football and I'll always be grateful for him. My heart is with my teammates in Starkville right now. I know it's tough for them."

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Mississippi State called upon Leach to revitalize the Bulldogs' offense, which struggled under the direction of former head coach Joe Moorhead, who was fired just six days before Leach's arrival.

While Leach was certainly known for being one of the founding fathers of the "Air Raid" offense, he was also known for being one of the quirkiest personalities in college football.

And like most who interacted with Leach, Whittemore had his own "Mike Leach story."

"Last month I went up there," said Whittemore, referring to Starkville, Miss. "We sat down at dinner, probably ate for an hour and we didn't talk about football at all. Not one thing.

"We talked books and pirates and Key West. He was a genuine guy. He cared about his players. He cared about me. And we're going to miss him."

Whittemore's commitment came after a long recruitment process that saw him garner offers from countless Division I and SEC programs.

A Gainesville native, Whittemore initially committed to the Gators in his backyard before flipping to Leach and the Bulldogs.

Buchholz Quarterback Creed Whittemore wears a Mississippi State hat, left, while sitting next to fellow teammate wide receiver Jaren Hamilton, right, wearing an Alabama beanie while watching the Gainesville Hurricanes hosting the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. Whittemore recently committed to Mississippi State while Hamilton recently committed to Alabama. The Hurricanes won 57-54. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]

Whittemore's decision to flip came midway through his senior campaign, which saw him pilot the Bobcats to their second consecutive final four appearance. Playing quarterback, Whittemore finished his high school career having tallied 110 total touchdowns. which is believed to be an Alachua County record.

However, Mississippi State, as well as many other programs that offered him, see Whittemore as a collegiate wide receiver − a position few got to see him line up at in high school.

Following Monday night's tragic news, people questioned whether Whittemore would follow through with his commitment to the Bulldogs.

But for Whittemore himself, there was no question.

"No doubt in my mind," Whittemore said. "I want to respect Coach Leach. He means a lot to me. He gave me the opportunity and we're going to carry on his legacy."

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Buchholz WR Creed Whittemore stays with MSU after Mike Leach death