Whitehead addressing character questions ahead of draft
By WILL GRAVES
PITTSBURGH (AP) The question comes up in every meeting Jordan Whitehead has with NFL teams considering drafting the talented if enigmatic Pittsburgh safety, one that could have as much of an impact on where Whitehead begins his pro career as any 40-yard dash, bench press or highlight-reel play.
What was the deal with your suspension last fall?
Whitehead missed the first three games of his junior season in 2017 for violating team rules and Pitt went 1-2 without their best player in the secondary. The specifics of the suspension were never disclosed and Whitehead returned to finish with 60 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. He can run the 40 in 4.5 seconds and is plenty comfortable on offense, where he had 24 touches last season
While teams are happy to talk to him about his potential, they're also curious about the 21-year-old's character. And they didn't shy away from the subject during last month's NFL combine.
"They definitely did bring it up," Whitehead said after participating in Pitt's Pro Day on Wednesday. "I tell them what happened. I handled it like I was supposed to, like a man and they understand I learned from it and I won't make that mistake again."
Asked if he's made any changes over the last nine months, Whitehead points to surrounding himself with "good people." Still, he's well aware the questions are going to linger until the draft. He's heard his name mentioned in every round from the second to the seventh. That's a massive range, one that Whitehead understands is due in part to his misstep.
"It is going to hurt (my draft position)," Whitehead said. "It hurts everybody that gets off the field issues. But I really think that moving forward, I tell the people, I tell the coaches everything that happened and I'm dead serious, it's not going to happen again. I let it go because it's not going to happen again."
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi downplayed the idea NFL teams should be concerned about Whitehead, calling him a "super, super person."
There's little question about Whitehead's ability. He has the speed, athleticism and versatility to fit in on both sides of the ball. He bench pressed 185 pounds 24 times on Wednesday, an uptick from 21 at the combine. He knows he didn't have to lift again but wanted to show the 26 NFL teams that stopped by on Wednesday that he "had a little bit more left in the tank."
The questions, however, linger. Teammate Avonte Maddox, a four-year starter at cornerback for the Panthers who is likely a mid-round selection in the draft, admitted teams have brought Whitehead's name up during Maddox's own sit-downs them.
"They ask me about what's going on and this and that," Maddox said. "But I always tell them he's a great player on the field, great person off the field. You won't get a lot of trouble out of Jordan. He puts in the extra effort, extra film, off the field he's not a trouble guy. He doesn't go running into trouble."
Despite the concerns, Whitehead said he hasn't had second thoughts about giving up his final year of eligibility to go pro. Neither has Narduzzi, who called Whitehead "ready" for the NFL.
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Updated March 21, 2018