KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- In our digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Zane Whitson, a senior football and basketball player at Dobyns-Bennett High School.
Playing a sport takes mental and physical preparation.
“Whenever it comes to football there’s nothing like football I’m in love with it,” Whitson said.
Dobyns-Bennett’s Whitson spends all summer preparing for the football season.
“Whenever you have teammates that have bought in and understand what you’re striving for and they’re striving for the same thing it makes everybody really good not just me my line does a great job and when everyone’s all together pulling in the same direction it’s unstoppable,” Whitson said.
Whitson played quarterback each of the last two years, leading the Indians to 24 wins as the starter.
“On a normal night without COVID you walk out and you see 8,000 people in the stands and you can see your mom sitting on the top right you know that you’re playing for your city and you’re playing for your family and coaches and teammates it’s just a great feeling,” Whitson said.
“Rule #1 don’t put the ball in harm rule #2 don’t put the team in harm he’s protected the team and the football equally as well in his two years being our starter,” Dobyns-Bennett head football coach Joey Christian said.
But the Indians played Maryville a couple weeks ago; that loss ended their season. Most players might take time to rest and unwind from the season, but not Whitson.
He gets months to prepare for the football season and just hours to prepare for the basketball season.
“I had practice Monday and a game Tuesday so two days of practice then a game, it all happens quick but you just gotta move on sport to sport be ready,” Whitson said.
“Zane’s a special player there’s not many guys that can take no days off after a football season and come in and give you what he gives us so it’s pretty special to see his impact as meaningful as it was in game one it’s only the beginning of what he has,” Dobyns-Bennett head boys basketball coach Chris Poore said.
It seems like a tough task, going right to a new sport with a completely different playing style, but he’s used to it.
“You just get going it’s just one after another and you gotta keep preparing your body too you gotta stay in shape you gotta worry about every sport all the time it’s not just one thing that matters the most you gotta worry about what’s best for your body,” Whitson said.
His attention to his body has payed dividens. He also used to play baseball in the spring, but he gave that up to have a longer offseason to train for the football season. As a result, he gained 26 pounds this past summer, which made a difference on the field this fall.
“It really gave me the ability to run the ball better this year and coach to really open up the playbook because I feel like I’ve gained more speed I went from running a 4.8 to a 4.7 (40 yard dash) and I was able to take hits and not worried about oh he’s gonna get hurt because he’s running this,” Whitson said.
That weight will certainly help here in the basketball season.
“I think it’s really gonna help me down low because last year as tall as I am I’m still a little undersized weight wise but this year I think it’s different cause I can get in the post,” Whitson said.
While the physical activity is different, Whitson brings that hard work and leadership to both teams.
“That’s something I always try to do when transitioning from sports in football I take on a big leadership role and I gotta do the same thing with basketball cause we only have two seniors we’re a little young so if we’re not all pointing in the right direction we’re not gonna be successful,” Whitson said.
No matter the season, he welcomes the challenge of being a dual-sport athlete.
“It really didn’t affect me it was a little different on my body but it didn’t affect me mentally because I’m always ready to compete and that’s just the type of person I am I love sports and I strive for competitiveness and to win,” Whitson said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.