Meet the QB Whisperer
SD quarterback trainer George Whitfield
DRILL SeRGEANT George Whitfield trains at Pacific Beach with Tristan Hughes, 15.
George Whitfield, regarded by many as the “Quarterback Whisperer,” uses unconventional teaching methods to train quarterbacks of various sizes, shapes, and ages. Put it this way: If you see one of his students working on his five-step drop in the Pacific Ocean, don’t bother calling a lifeguard.
Whitfield runs a San Diego-based training academy, Whitfield Athletix, that has helped develop some of the best quarterbacks around—players like Andrew Luck (Colts), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Cam Newton (Panthers), and, most recently, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
The quarterbacks Whitfield works with range in age from eight to former NFL pros.
But many of Whitfield’s pupils, especially those who attend his year-round camp, are teens with big arms, and even bigger dreams of becoming the next great signal-caller.
Whitfield, 35, wonders where this kind of instruction was when he needed it. “If there was a ‘me’ around me then… the horse I was on would’ve been a Triple Crown winner,” says Whitfield. “The way I try to imagine it is this: If I were 12, how would I want to see things?”
The son of a longtime high school football coach in Kansas and Ohio, Whitfield fell in love with the game at an early age, thanks in large part to the influence of his father, George Sr.
“I remember going out when I was in junior high, and running into his former players at the mall. They would tell me how my dad changed their life,” Whitfield says. “He believed in them and gave them tools to be successful. That always resonated with me.”
Whitfield attended Youngstown State University but later transferred to Tiffin University, both in Ohio. He played parts of four seasons of Arena League football and, unable to take the Midwest winters and lack of year-round training facilities, headed to San Diego, where a former teammate lived. Since 2004, Whitfield has called Mission Beach home.
After retiring from the Arena League, Whitfield was an intern under then-Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, where he worked with the team’s QBs, including Philip Rivers. Along the way, he developed his own playbook and philosophy.
These days, Whitfield can be found coaching on a practice field or at the beach.
The drills that take place on the sand or in knee-deep water are used to develop balance, strength, and coordination. The thinking is to teach body control when faced with an unstable surface (beach) or an actively hostile one (ocean).
The dry-land workouts are just as taxing, especially the one Whitfield calls the “Jedi” drill, in which he blindfolds the quarterback. Robbed of his visual awareness, the QB needs to rely more on his balance and control. Downfield, a receiver claps his hands to indicate his location.
Whitfield wants his students to learn how to work in tight spaces. He preaches the “chaos mechanics theory,” which includes waving a broom in front of his pupils to simulate how to succeed in the face of pressure.
“You want to expand their brains as to what’s out there,” Whitfield says.
Watching a football game with Whitfield is an experience in itself, especially when one of his students is playing. Take that wild Alabama–Texas A&M game last fall, when Manziel helped the Aggies take down the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide.
“Sometimes it’s hard to sit. I felt like I was playing right along with him (Manziel).”
To be sure, these players are more than just students to Whitfield. And there is much more to his work than just building a better quarterback.
“No matter if he’s a Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 pick, or whatever; maybe you can add a tool to his tool belt to help fortify him as a player or a young man,” Whitfield says.
“Technically, we’re training quarterbacks. But we’re training them in confidence, too. The better you are at something, the more confident you’re going to be. That’s a very powerful thing. You have to believe it can be done. It can be done.”