At first, Kevin Wharton-Price went out for SouthLake Christian’s football team just to stay in shape for basketball.
As it turns out, Wharton-Price also is a pretty good football player – good enough that he’s drawing interest from colleges.
At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Wharton is a two-way player – wide receiver and defensive end – for the Eagles, who are playing a mix of junior varsity and varsity teams this season.
“I just wanted to stay active,” said Wharton-Price, also a power forward on SouthLake Christian’s basketball team. “Basketball season hadn’t started practice yet, and I didn’t want to sit around and be bored. That’s when I decided to play football and stay in shape.
“My dad’s always said that playing football would always get me a little tougher on the basketball court, so that’s what I’m doing. But when football season’s over, then I’ll get right back into basketball.”
Wharton-Price had last played football three years ago, when he was attending Central Catholic High in Pittsburgh, Pa. But he took a break from the game to focus on basketball, and stayed with it when he moved to the Lake Norman area and began attending SouthLake Christian in 2014.
“I thought about playing football when I first came here,” Wharton-Price said. “But since I was new here, I decided to get my feet settled and get my grades together.”
But when Eagles football coach Mike Causey began looking for students interested in trying out for the team near the end of the 2014-2015 school year, Wharton-Price didn’t hesitate.
“He was actually one of the first ones to email (athletics director Joe Haney),” Causey said. “When you have a big body like that, with that athleticism, you get excited as a coach.
“Offensively or defensively, you love having a great kid like that. We’ve had a great time with him, and he’s just made our program a lot better this year.”
Of course, with all that time away from the game, Wharton-Price had to go through an adjustment.
“It didn’t take long,” he said. “It felt new, and I got sore after the first few practices. I wasn’t used to all the hitting after being away a few years. It wasn’t too bad though, and I got used to it like I had been playing all of my life.”
And Wharton-Price has shown that athleticism on the field this season. He’s already had pair of 100-yard receiving games, and a highlight-reel, one-handed touchdown catch against Rabun Gap-Nachoochee on Sept. 25.
But that’s what Causey expected to see from Wharton-Price this season.
“Our first camp, we had a 7-on-7 drill on the second day against First Assembly,” Causey said. “The catches he made, it was just very impressive to see a kid make the transition from taking a few years off from the game, make the adjustments and get back into the flow.”
Said Wharton-Price: “I always knew I could catch, it was just a matter of getting the routes down.”
Wharton-Price had already been drawing interest from colleges for his abilities on the basketball court – UNC Pembroke, Catawba and Anderson have all been in contact, he said.
But Wharton-Price is now drawing attention for what he’s doing on the football field.
“I’ve got a couple coaches online right now – Winston-Salem State and a couple others – that have expressed interest,” Causey said. “Once our season finishes up, we’ll see what we can do for him on the football side.
“He could be a wideout or a tight end, but I can definitely see him as a (defensive) end. He’s about 225 (pounds) now, but he could easily go into a college program and easily put on 35-40 pounds in about two years. It’s always a plus to have that kind of frame coming out of high school.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.