When Downers Grove South quarterback Chandler Whitmer committed to Illinois late spring, some were uncertain how good he is. But his play in several camps this summer has put any concerns to rest. After being named MVP at the Champaign Nike Camp, Whitmer was invited to the Elite 11 Camp in California and excelled against stiff competition.
All Whitmer did was be named Third MVP and win the Most Accuracy Award. His selection to the camp confirmed his place as one of the top 11 quarterbacks in the country, and his performance proved he belonged. Now back from his big adventure, Whitmer discussed his experience.
"I had a good time obviously. It was a wonderful experience out there. I had fun and competed with the other guys. There were a lot of good quarterbacks out there. I was just trying to up my level of play with the competition."
Whitmer earned the yellow jersey as the "Golden Gun" after the first day of camp. He deflected credit, but that was a major accomplishment.
"I told myself going into it I wanted to get a yellow jersey one day, so why not make it the first day. So I went out balling the first day. I was familiar with each of the drills because I was a ball boy last year, and some other kids weren't. I got a jump and took advantage of that."
He became a marked man after that, but he still earned the "Most Accuracy Award" at the end of the four day camp. Each of the 11 participants won an award for their efforts, but Whitmer preferred the one for accuracy over all the others.
"Yeah, definitely. One of the things I pride myself on is footwork and accuracy. Some people can throw it a mile, but if you can't hit the receiver it doesn't matter. That's something that I work on a lot, the timing and accuracy with my receivers and getting it to my playmakers."
Four of the quarterbacks will be battling against one another in the Big 10 the next four or five years. Whitmer was happy to get acquainted with Michigan's Devin Gardner, Michigan State's Joe Boisture and Penn State's Robert Bolden ahead of time.
"I got a picture of all four of us future Big 10 quarterbacks, so I'll appreciate that down the road. I got to hang out with all the guys, and to put a personality with the faces you see is just awesome."
The 6'-1" signal caller also formed a lasting relationship with a couple other participants.
"I hung out with Nick Montana (University of Washington) and Jake Heaps (Brigham Young University) a lot. I know they have their first game on ESPN, so that will be fun to watch because I know those guys and know what they're like as people and not just football players. Those are friendships we'll have down the road and will hopefully last a lifetime."
The counselors and instructors at the camp provided a wealth of information.
"Just getting to pick the brains of those 6 college counselors was an unbelieveable experience. They've been through what we've been through. When we asked them what the most important thing is to get to the next level, every single one of them said knowing what you're doing in the classroom and knowing how to pick defenses apart. Knowing your offense and what everybody is doing.
"Control of the mental side of the game is the most important thing. Everybody can throw it, but what separates the good quarterbacks from the great ones is the people who know what they're doing on the mental side of the game.
"Juice Williams was there for the first two days, but he had to go home for a family issue. I think everything's ok now. It was still good getting to work with him a couple days. He showed us some things and talked about how we do it at Illinois, so that was good.
"I also liked Daryll Clark, another Big 10 quarterback. He was real cool and hung out with us alot. And Cody Hawkins from Colorado is also a good guy and was very helpful as well."
The head of the camp is Bob Johnson, a quarterback guru and father of NFL qb Rob Johnson.
"Bob Johnson is an awesome guy. He definitely knows what he's talking about in the classroom and on the field. He helped us a lot with watching film, chalk talk and all that. We got his number, and he said if I have any questions about the mental side of the game or anything, feel free. He was a big help."
Whitmer has developed a close relationship with Robert Weiner, the head coach at Plant High School in Tampa, Florida from attending a quarterback camp at the University of Illinois last summer. The Whitmer family invited Weiner to join them for the Elite 11 experience.
"Robert Weiner pointed me out, so ever since I've been friends with him. He's a great guy. He's helped me with recruiting, with life. Anything I want to talk to him about, I just call him up. My uncle lives in Florida right down the road from his high school. I work out with him when I visit sometimes. It's a good resource to have, and a good friend."
Whitmer also invited him to coach the Illinois contingent at the Scout 7 on 7 camp in Columbus, Ohio, last March.
"They told us we could bring a coach, and my coach couldn't make it. So I asked Coach Weiner to come out there. He loves to do that stuff, so he came out. He brought his wide receiver coach with him. We went out and had fun."
Whitmer has been working diligently all year to develop his game and has earned his accolades. He was happy his family decided to stay in California an extra week for a well-deserved vacation.
"I was able to stay out there an extra 7 days not worrying about anything football-wise. I was just relaxing, going to the beach, going to the pool and being a kid for awhile again. Now it's time to start thinking about the football season and winning a championship."
Downers Grove South begins its two-a-day football practices August 11. In the meantime, Whitmer and fellow Illini commitments C.J. Fiedorowicz and Andy Gallik plan to visit the Illini as they begin their fall practices.
"I think Andy is working a camp at Brother Rice on the 9th and 10th, so he may come down earlier than that. But I just talked to C.J., and I think he will come down with me on the 9th and 10th."