A Shreveport Times story titled "Resume of ‘Quarterback Whisperer’ appears fraudulent" quickly made its way around the Internet earlier this week. The Quarterback Whisperer in question is George Whitfield, who in the past five years has gone from obscurity to being a national name in football circles having trained Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel, among others.
The story focused on the bio information listed on Whitfield’s website that included short stints playing arena football from 2001-2006 with the Chicago Rush, Louisville Fire, Memphis Xplorers and Bossier City Battle Wings. The story quoted the owner of the Battle Wings, Dan Newman, saying, “I can find no record of George Whitfield playing AFL or af2 and he certainly never played for us.”
On Tuesday night, Mike Hohensee, who has been in arena football for 28 seasons and was the coach of the Chicago Rush from 2001-08, told FOX Sports he found Whitfield at an open tryout in Pennsylvania. "We had about 250 players come out and he was one of the two players we kept," Hohensee said. "I did coach him. He came to camp. We were loaded at quarterback and he didn’t make it."
Hohensee thought Whitfield spent around three or four weeks with the Rush, but conceded that it has been a long time since then and that a whole bunch of players have come in and out of arenaball, so it’s not so easy to recall exactly for how long.
"He needed to learn the game," the coach said. "That was his first experience with (arena football), so I recommended he play at one of the lower levels. He was a student of the game with a great attitude. He took coaching well and he applied it quickly. He just didn’t have the experience. I remember I made a couple of calls for him."
Whitfield, who was a record-setting quarterback at D2 Tiffin University after transferring out of Youngstown State, had told me in prior conversations that he was working at a bar in Iowa when he made the drive to the Pittsburgh area for that open tryout. Reached Wednesday morning, Whitfield said, "I’m not really sure what more there is for me to say about any of this."
The Shreveport Times story mentioned that "Arenafan.com is the consummate source for Arena Football and there is no George Whitfield, Jr. in their database," but there actually is a story on that site mentioning Whitfield playing quarterback for the Louisville Fire in a 2004 exhibition game and throwing two touchdowns.
Ryan Russell, now the strength coach at Auburn, played wide receiver for the Fire. He told FOX Sports that he roomed with Whitfield for about a month when they were teammates in Louisville.
"I remember being impressed with his knowledge of football," Russell said. "He lived and breathed football."
UPDATE (4:30 p.m. ET): Matthew Sauk, a former quarterback for the Louisville Fire and current head coach of the Portland Thunder, sent along this Tweet:
@BruceFeldmanCFB I was the starter for that team when George was there. He played for sure.
UPDATE (11:30 a.m. ET, June 5): On Wednesday night, FOX Sports spoke with former Chicago Rush QB Ray Philyaw, who was quoted in the Shreveport Times story saying, “He wasn’t there when I was there.” Philyaw said after initially speaking with the reporter, he went online and saw a picture of Whitfield and then remembered him.
"It was over 10 years ago," Philyaw told FOX Sports. "I finally saw his face and put two and two together.
"I called (the reporter) back and I told him that I remembered who George was and that I remembered him being in Chicago with me. I remembered him playing with me. That was 10 minutes later than the first call. He had time to correct it."
Editor’s note: The author has covered Whitfield extensively in recent years, including in a quarterback book that will be published this fall.
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FOX Sports 1. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB.