ORONO – It’s about the name on the front, not on the back.
How many times have you heard it? Fifty? A hundred? 80 plus Black Bears wear the blue and white M-A-I-N-E letters, but only one owns No. 9.
“At the end of the day when you’re on the field you have to represent the number,” Maine football defensive lineman Kayon Whitaker said.
The sweat of Black Bears legends is ingrained in that jersey, Matt King, Jordan Stevens, Trevor Bates, now Whitaker.
“I know the weight that’s on my shoulders, but I try not to think about that. Go out there and play my game,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker wore the same number in high school and he’s certainly earned it back during his time in Orono.
“His preparation during the week you know taking the film room, really trying to study formations. That’s really helped take his game from really a walk on two years ago basically to a guy right now that has 10 sacks this season,” Maine football defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman said.
Brotherhood runs strong in Orono, for No. 9, his rise has been shared with his brother on the defensive line.
“We’ve both had our trials and tribulations along the way you know we always talked about having this moment together. It’s definitely a dream coming into reality,” Maine football defensive lineman Charles Mitchell said.
For Mitchell, Whitaker and the Black Bears numbers mean more than just numerical value and tradition.
“It’s something I’ve been doing the last few weeks I throw up the three in front of the nine,” Whitaker said.
For his fallen teammate Darius Minor, the No. 9 has taken on a whole new importance.
“I pray to him before the game I have his name written on my cleats every step of the way he’s with us. I just want to remind people that’s why I throw up the 39,” Whitaker said.