BY PETER DORFMAN
It hardly seems likely that a former Big Ten coach would tackle the coaching duties of a high school football team, but that’s exactly the path Carter Whitson has taken.
Whitson, a lifelong football guy who played wide receiver as an Oklahoma Sooner and served six years on the coaching staff at Indiana University, is now looking forward to his second season as a Martinsville Artesian.
A native of Shawnee, Oklahoma, Whitson, 32, played for Kevin Wilson, then offensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma. “When he was hired as the head coach at IU,” Whitson says, “he brought me to Bloomington with him.”
At IU, Whitson coached the wide receivers as a graduate assistant while working on his master’s degree in sports management and athletic administration. In 2015, he became Wilson’s recruiting director. It was a promotion, and a challenge. But after two seasons, he was ready to move on.
He saw recruiting as an exhausting, nonstop whirlwind of lobbying, cajoling, texting, and tweeting. Ultimately, he says, the stress took its toll. After the 2016 season, when Wilson was fired as IU head coach and the opportunity at Martinsville appeared, Whitson grabbed it.
The job was attractive for a couple of practical reasons. Whitson’s wife, Katie, owns a thriving retail business, Blond Genius, in Bloomington. And Martinsville High School is less than 30 miles from their home.
Plus, the Artesians needed help. The team had gone 1-19 the previous two seasons. Under Whitson, the team made a dramatic turnaround, winning six games in a row and finishing 6-5, with one playoff win before losing in the sectional championship to Bloomington South.
It’s different from the do-or-die, big-money atmosphere of college football. Still, Whitson sets high expectations. “We’re supposed to win,” he says. “We’re rebuilding, and 6-5 isn’t bad, but it’s not good enough.”
Whitson also teaches business classes and serves as assistant athletic director. His college football connections have helped attract recruiters. Three of Whitson’s 2017 seniors were signed by Indiana college football programs. “I can’t tell you the last time Martinsville had a kid signed to play college football,” he says.
Whitson relishes the opportunity to mold his players into responsible young men and to make an impact in Martinsville. It’s a town with a history of difficult race relations that is working on its image. “Martinsville might have a past,” he allows. “But I’ve only met good people here.”