Steven Whitehead has always loved football, from the time he was a young child growing up in Louisiana.
“There’s no other sport like it,” he once told the Herald. “It’s the little things. It’s a chess game amongst a chess game.”
But as a 5-foot-8, 175-pound wide receiver, Whitehead never really got a chance to show what he could do in the NFL.
Yes, he was an outstanding athlete – a Louisiana high school state powerlifting champion, an AP Division I-AA All-American at McNeese State. And from 2011 until 2015, Whitehead was one of the top receivers – heck, all-purpose players – in the entire Indoor Football League while playing for the Tri-Cities Fever.
In his final season with the Fever, he caught 81 passes for 1,032 yards, scored 17 touchdowns, was named first-team All-IFL.
Oh yes, he was also named the IFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Then he shed the football pads to concentrate on his personal training business, Elite Ambitions Training, in Kennewick.
And one thing he’s never been afraid of is hard work.
He’s built a loyal following at Elite Ambitions Training, or E.A.T.
Young athletes seek his guidance throughout the Mid-Columbia.
“Getting people to believe in themselves more than they ever thought possible,” he said, when asked why he loves personal training so much. His enthusiasm and knowledge has been an attraction to athletes.
But it’s not just young people he helps.
In the last few years, he’s worked with Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. With Whitehead’s help, Jeffery has stayed healthy, catching 122 passes for 1,632 yards and 15 TDs in the 2017 and 2018 NFL seasons combined.
The Eagles have noticed too.
Josh Hingst, the head strength and conditioning coach for the Eagles, offered Whitehead a job to work with him for this offseason.
Monday was Whitehead’s first day with the Eagles.
“I’ll be with them all the way up to training camp (in July),” said Whitehead. “Last year I had a chance to go back there and intern for a week. A month or so ago (Hingst) called me and asked me if I’d like to come out and work the offseason with them. That’s how it happens in the NFL. A little step at a time.”
Like all other NFL teams, the Eagles will have Organized Team Activities, or OTAs, throughout May and June. There is also a Mandatory Minicamp in the middle of June.
Whitehead looks at the opportunity as a double blessing. While he gets a chance to work with NFL players, he can also take what he learns and help his athletes back in the Tri-Cities.
“I tell the kids all of the time, ‘Professionals struggle just like you all. They just correct their problems immediately,’ ” he said. “I want to reach out and get the point across: This is only to get better at what I do.”
He calls it a validation of him to his clients here at home.
“Look, there are only 3,200 NFL players, but there are over a million high school football players,” he said. “People really pour it into youth sports here. But there should be more college-type athletes from this area.”
In Louisiana, Whitehead says, athletes there know they have to get better physically in order to go to college.
“In two or three years I can help get them to college,” he said. “But are they gonna be prepared for the sharks from other areas competing against them?”
Meanwhile, while Whitehead puts in work with the Eagles, trainers Vaalyn Jackson, former Southridge star athlete Zayid Al-Ghani (now a certified personal trainer) and Larry Scott will take care of business at E.A.T. during the next few months. They’ve also been working with kids in other sports like volleyball and soccer.
“The only way I can do this is with those guys,” he said. “They are the bread and butter of this place.”
And in a few months’ time, Whitehead will come back with new tools to help his kids.
“We are just the mechanics. We look to see if everything is working under the hood,” he said. “Their coaches are the driving instructors and they are the drivers.”
And just like them, he has the same desire to improve on what he’s doing.
“I think that’s the goal: trying to get better every single day.”
Jazzy’s Benefit Tournament
Prosser girls basketball coach Kyler Bachofner reported that proceeds from this past weekend’s Jazzy’s Benefit Tournament exceeded $30,000.
The tournament was created when it was discovered that Prosser girls basketball and soccer player Jazzy Guillen had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in her lower abdomen that had spread to her liver.
That was in February, and she has been at Seattle Children’s Hospital ever since.
Fifty-six teams of all age groups participated in the tournament. So many teams, in fact, that neighboring Grandview donated gymnasium space.
Bachofner said even teams from outside the state came to play.
The Tri-Cities Basketball Officials Association donated their services for the entire tournament too.
All money raised will go to Jazzy’s battle toward cancer, said Bachofner.
Cascadia Preps reported this week that Chiawana grad and WSU defensive back Deion Singleton has entered the NCAA transfer portal. So he plans on leaving WSU. … Chiawana punter Elijah Perez has signed a letter of intent to punt next fall at Alabama A&M. … Senior Emily Benson (Kamiakin) became Western Washington University’s all-time softball hits leader with her career 199th on Tuesday in a loss to Simon Fraser. Benson has been so hot at the plate lately that in a doubleheader against St. Martin’s last weekend, she was intentionally walked in seven of her eight plate appearances. … True freshman Jake Harvey (Southridge) is playing so well for Oregon State’s baseball team that he’s started at second base 11 times already this season. Harvey is batting .270 and has committed just one error in 40 defensive chances. … Prosser’s Kord Tuttle announced this week that he’ll play football for Pacific Lutheran University this fall. … Among this week’s athletes earning statewide WIAA recognition are James Colclasure (Connell’s boys tennis), Mirna Gallaga (Wahluke girls track) and Tori Moon (DeSales softball). … Some more NWAC signings: Prosser’s Marissa Cortes has signed with Walla Walla CC women’s basketball; Warden’s Cathy Abigail Mendoza has signed with Everett CC’s women’s soccer team; Liberty Christian’s Maddie Godwin has signed with Wenatchee Valley CC’s women’s basketball; Hermiston’s Juan Muniz has signed with Blue Mountain CC’s men’s soccer team; Chiawana’s Jean Nyabenda has signed to play for CBC’s men’s soccer team.