Vidalia native Michael Whitley is trading in his helmet for a headset.
Whitley has been named as a graduate assistant coach at Fort Valley State, a Division II school in Fort Valley, Ga.
Whitley, 24, will serve as an assistant coach over wide receivers.
“I had been looking on line, e-mailing and doing interviews,” Whitley said. “I never thought I would end up in Georgia. I had a few coaching opportunities, This is the only Division II school that contacted me.”
Whitley is also excited about working with Wildcat head coach Kevin Porter.
Fort Valley State finished 2-8 last year after finishing 5-5 in 2017, finishing first in the SIAC Eastern Division and made a second consecutive championship game appearance.
Porter was named SIAC Coach of the Year by his peers and eight players received All-Conference selections.
“He has had teams that led the nation in passing and loves to throw the football,” Whitley said. “This is a good opportunity for me to learn from one of the best.”
Whitley went from playing football at Vidalia High to Trinity Episcopal his senior year. After helping Trinity to a state title, Whitley went north after signing a scholarship with Lakeland University in Wisconsin.
After breaking records at Lakeland and earning several MVP awards, Whitley went overseas last year and played in Germany.
Whitley signed with the Western Michigan Ironmen indoor football team this past spring.
He played back-up quarterback, but threw two touchdown passes in the final four minutes, including the game-winner with nine seconds remaining to give the Ironmen a 44-37 win over crosstown rival Muskegon.
Whitley, a native of Vidalia, was starting in place of Alex Carder, who was being rested for the contest.
Whitley said he believes the Fort Valley job is the best job for him in the long run.
“I am learning the system now, and anxious to get started,” he said. “I’m going to see how this goes and push myself to hopefully becoming the full-time receivers coach. I hope to work with quarterbacks somewhere some day. But I’m going to take advantage of learning from the best right now.”
Whitley also admits he would love to coach high school football in the future.
As for his playing days, Whitley said that is up in the air.
“They said I can play with a team in Georgia,” Whitley said. “And Western Michigan invited me back. I’m going to wait until the spring to decide. I will have classes and recruiting taking up a lot of my time. If I played my last ballgame I’m OK with it. I put everything I had into it. But this has been my dream.”