Notre Dame’s Whitten gets new experience at Oil Bowl

Jonathan Hull
Times Record News
Published  June 9, 2017

Notre Dame’s Skyler Whitten broke plenty of tackles playing six-man football for the Knights and will try his hand at the 11-man version of the game in the Oil Bowl.

Skyler Whitten is going to do something he’s never done before Saturday — play 11-man football.

Whitten is a two-time first-team all-state selection for Notre Dame, leading the Knights to consecutive appearance at the TAPPS Division III six-man state title game. His on-field ability was enough to get him an invite to the Oil Bowl, suiting up for the West Texas squad.

When Whitten takes the field at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, he’ll be experiencing the 11-man version of the game for the first time in his life.

“I started playing in sixth grade at Notre Dame,” Whitten said. “I’ve only played six-man football. The transition is going to be different. I’m just going to have fun. I think it will take me some time to adjust, but not too long.”

Whitten’s first exposure into the traditional 11-man game couldn’t come at a better time. He’s headed to Kansas Wesleyan — an NAIA program in Salina, Kansas — this fall where he’ll play football for the Coyotes.

It’s an opportunity he never expected to get. It came about after he submitted an athlete questionnaire for them online. The coaches contacted his mother and it moved from there. The Coyotes offered him as big of a scholarship as they could.

“It was a last-minute deal,” Whitten said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get an offer because I played six-man at a small school. I didn’t expect that chance at all. For them to take a chance on me makes me want to do my best here (at the Oil Bowl) and then go up there and do my best.”

Whitten had a productive career at Notre Dame. Despite missing several injuries with a torn meniscus ligament in his knee, he still rushed for 707 yards and 10 touchdowns, while catching 23 passes for 468 yards and seven touchdowns his senior year.

He was more productive as a junior, racing up 1,520 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns with 716 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 31 catches.

Whitten got the opportunity to play in two state championship games with the Knights, although they lost both years.

“It was a great experience,” Whitten said. “I wish we would have won one of those games, but it was great run. It was a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Whitten was open to playing any position he was asked to play for West Texas this week, but thinks his best fits are as a slot receiver or defensive back. It’s the same two positions Kansas Wesleyan wants him to play.

It makes the Oil Bowl as a bit of a dress rehearsal for the former six-man star.

“I’m treating this as a chance to get ready for what I’ll do in college,” Whitten said. “I think I’ll get a good feel for what I need to do and how different the game is this week. It’s a great opportunity.”