Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Garic Wharton II signs with Arizona

Valley High speedster to play football, run track for Wildcats

By Anthony Fenech

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 | 6:41 p.m.

Valley High senior Garic Wharton II remembers the first sheet of paper that mapped his path to a college scholarship.

He was a freshman and it was a report card, decorated from top to bottom with C's.

And his father, Garic Wharton, was having none of those grades.

"He threatened to take me off the team," Wharton II said. "So I had to step my game up. If he didn't do that, then I don't think I'd be here about to sign these papers right now."

In front of a small gathering of friends, family, coaches and teammates Wednesday afternoon in the Valley library, Wharton II put his signature on a national letter of intent to play football at Arizona.

"It's almost like an unreal moment," he said after putting on a red Arizona hat. "You always think about signing, but it's crazy when you get to sign the papers and it's done."

Wharton II is a two-sport star during his time with the Vikings, winning three state championships in track in addition to his football accomplishments as wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back. This season he rushed for 691 yards, passed for 466 yards and caught 12 passes for 255 yards.

"He's an amazing athlete and it's a pleasure to see him earn this scholarship," Valley football coach John Elwell said.

He plans to participate in both track and football at Arizona, something that Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops and his staff have given their blessings to.

"They had an early belief in me, and I feel comfortable with them," Wharton II said.

He said that in addition to playing wide receiver in the slot, something that benefits both the Wildcats spread offense and Wharton's best trait — speed — that the coaches have expressed interest in using him for kick and punt returns.

He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, including a memorable runback during Valley High's homecoming game.

"We took him off of the return team at that time because he was playing quarterback," Elwell said. "So when we're walking out onto the field, he asks if he can return the opening kick if we win the toss, because he's going to run it back for a touchdown."

"And sure enough, he ran it for a touchdown and did exactly what he told me he would do."

Elwell was an assistant for Wharton's first practice as a freshman, helping him line up at wide receiver for the first time.

"He has an uncanny ability to learn fast," Elwell said. "He understands what coaches are trying to teach him and he's a natural competitor."

Wharton II set a state record in the 200-meter dash as a sophomore in 2008 with a time of 21.1 seconds and followed that up with a record-setting performance in the 100-meter dash, clocking in at 10.39 seconds as a junior.

"He's a competitor," Valley track coach Mark Salzman said. "When there's someone ahead of him, he wants to get them. He does a great job of preparing to compete."

The 5 foot, 11 inch, 168-pound senior said that in addition to having family in Tucson, the Arizona coaching staff convinced him by wanting him.

"I wanted to go somewhere that wanted me as much as I wanted them," he said. "And I could tell Arizona is that place."

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