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November 16, 2013

Gridiron Greats: North Andover's Todd Whitley

For two reasons, Todd Whitley never thought he’d become a North Andover great.

First, he never thought he’d attend North Andover. And second, he never thought he’d be great.

But, as it turned out, Whitley (NAHS ‘86) had a storied career for the Scarlet Knights.

He grew up in Salisbury, stayed in the district even when his family moved to North Andover but transferred in high school. Needless to say, the Triton game was circled on his calendar.

“That was the most amazing thing, the rivalry with Triton and Jimmy Kelley,” said Whitley from his business in Texas. “He was my next door neighbor. I looked up to him.”

Playing for the Amesbury Pop Warner team, Whitley said, “Jimmy was No. 1 growing up and I was No. 2”.

That changed in high school when Whitley took a backseat to no one.

He said, “The stadium was packed at Triton. I knew the entire team. Going up against them it was very emotional. I killed him. It was awesome.”

That was his junior year and Whitley’s 29-yard TD run with 1:40 to play gave the Knights a 28-21 win and clinched at least a share of the Cape Ann League title.

There were a lot of performances like that as Whitley rushed for 4,461 yards and 40 TDs for the Scarlet Knights.

Another unforgettable game was his last game in Scarlet and Black ... the 1985 Thanksgiving game in a horrible snowstorm against Masconomet. The 5-9, 190-pounder rushed for 267 yards and three scores.

Whitley recalled, “The old Lawrence coach (Gerry Callagy) said, ‘You have to use your heels when running in snow.’ I did it and it worked!”

His sophomore year, the Knights were just 3-6-1. But then it was back to back 9-1 campaigns. Back then, however, only 10 teams in all of Eastern Mass. qualified for the Super Bowls. It seemed the Knights would always be edged out on some obscure tie-breaker.

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