Steven Whitehead has put up monster numbers this season for the Tri-Cities Fever.
The 29-year-old wide receiver leads the Indoor Football League in receiving with 74 catches for 977 yards. His 16 touchdown receptions are second only to Judd Harrold’s 19 for Sioux Falls.
Whitehead is just 147 receiving yards away from breaking the IFL single-season mark of 1,123, set in 2009 by Odessa’s Jimmy Conner. But he believes he sees the end of the tunnel in his playing career.
He says Saturday night’s game against the Iowa Barnstormers (7:05 p.m. kickoff) will be his final contest at the Toyota Center.
It doesn’t mean he’s finished for the season. The Fever (7-6) has qualified for the IFL playoffs, with a semifinal tentatively scheduled for June 26 in Nebraska against the Danger. If the Fever wins, it would play at Cedar Rapids or Sioux Falls in the United Bowl championship game.
But Whitehead says he’s ready for life after football.
“I’m at peace with it,” he said. “It’s more so just the traveling. I’d rather be with (2-year-old son) Kai. Those road trips, they get real old. Once you come to reality (that you’re not to make it to the NFL), you’re going to lose a lot of time. You could be back at home, at work, with your family. You gotta have that passion.”
Whitehead says he still has that passion to win.
“I think internally we have the best odds (to win the title),” he said. “We have the most room to improve. A lot of these mistakes we have made have been self-inflicted. I think we’re gonna really turn things around.”
This isn’t the first time Whitehead has talked of calling it a career. He’s pretty much said it at the end of every season since 2010, says Fever coach Adam Shackleford. And Whitehead has admitted it’s hard to get football out of the blood.
“I’m not buying that,” Shackleford said. “We’re not gonna call plays to break records. I won’t have a clicker on my belt keeping track. At the same time, I know he wants a win before a record. And if he leads the league in receptions this season, what’s to keep him from doing it next season?”
Regardless, the Fever has some unfinished business, starting with Saturday night’s game.
NOTES: Fever OL Rodrick Gladney should play Saturday night. He had a stinger at the end of last week’s loss at Sioux Falls and was carried off on a gurney. ... The Barnstormers (5-7) arguably have the best-looking helmets in all of football, with what look like goggles on the top of the helmet. ... The Fever ranks third in IFL defense, surrendering 211.7 yards a game. ... Fever RB Andrew Pierce is second in the IFL in all-purpose yardage at 119.8 per game and leads the league with 27 TDs. ... The Fever won’t face Iowa’s Robb Nallenweg, who averaged 204 passing yards over seven games this season. He was put on season-ending injured reserve this week. Taylor Genuser, who started for Billings in the season opener against the Fever in February, will start at QB. ... Iowa WR Lemans Casimier has as many catches (74) as Whitehead. ... Fever K Brady Beeson leads the league in PAT percentage at 87 percent (41-for-47). ... Fever LB Leon Jackson averages 6.9 tackles a game, ranking him second in the IFL. Teammate Troy Sanders is sixth at 6.2. Iowa’s Javicz Jones is third at 6.5 per contest.