Meet Alvis Whitted, the coach who makes Colorado State receivers great

Alvis Whitted was a high school track star who preferred to play football.

A college walk-on who played nine seasons in the NFL.

A banker who believed his true calling was coaching.

Life, Whitted said, is all about choices.

Good choices, bad choices and the consequences of each.

His father made bad choices and has spent most of his son’s life in jail, serving time primarily for drug and fraud convictions.

It was his mother who taught him and his two sistersthat “you are always defined by your choices, always.”

And the choices Whitted has made have helped him become one of the most valuable assistants on CSU football coach Mike Bobo’s staff.

Two of Whitted’s receivers, Rashard Higgins in 2014 and Michael Gallup in 2017, were finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the outstanding receiver in college football.

Whitted’s ability to take what he learned in his nine seasons in the NFL, tailor it to fit Colorado State University’s offense under two different head coaches and teach it to the receivers has played a significant role in the Rams’ string of five consecutive bowl appearances.

He builds personal relationships with every player and learns how to push each to be the best they can be.

“He’s genuine, and I think that’s why he gets the most out of his players,” Bobo said.

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Whitted, 43, said he got into coaching to give back to those who taught him to be a better player and better man. Teachers, coaches and NFL receivers he played with, like Keenan McCardell and Pro Football Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice, Randy Moss and Tim Brown, who took him under their wings.

They saw an athlete with world-class speed — Whitted raced Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials and set North Carolina State records in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. But he “was hungry to play football,” Whitted said.

He turned down a full-ride track scholarship to the University of North Carolina to accept a partial scholarship to N.C. State, so he could play football. He made his mark with the Wolfpack as a kick returner, with 1,929 career yards and two touchdowns in four seasons. He caught nearly as many passes (27) in his final season in the NFL in 2006 with the Oakland Raiders as he did in his entire college career (29).

Whitted planned to go into finance when his playing days were over. He was working for a company in Falls Church, Virginia, and in the process of taking the exam that would qualify him to make trades in general securities and futures when he realized “it just wasn’t for me and I wanted to get into coaching,” he said.

He started as an assistant at his own former high school, Orange in Hillsboro, North Carolina, for two years. He then moved on to Millsaps College, an NCAA Division III school in Jackson, Mississippi, for one year as the receivers coach and to UCLA for a year as an offensive quality control assistant. He came to CSU the following year, in 2012, and is the only holdover from Jim McElwain’s coaching staff still with the program six years later.

He met his wife, former CSU strength coach Tracy Ljone, and put down roots in Fort Collins. They bought a nice home in the Taft Canyon subdivision on the southwest side of town, have a 20-month-old daughter, Remy, and recently bought some land near Horsetooth Reservoir that they hope to settle down on someday.

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“Honestly, now this is home,” said Tracy, who is from Virginia. “We know that probably we’re going to have to move at some point, but this is our home. We want to build a house up there and eventually come back here.”

Whitted has had opportunities to coach elsewhere in recent years and admits he wants to eventually be an offensive coordinator and maybe even a head coach. It’s a logical progression for a relatively young coach with his knowledge and skill set, Bobo said.

When the right opportunity comes along, Whitted is prepared to make the right decision.

“I always look at every scenario, every opportunity; is it going to be better for my family?” Whitted said. “Is it going to be better for my wife and daughter? Is it going to be better for me? Are there going to be people around me who are going to help me grow as a person?

“A wise man once told me, ‘Grow where you’re planted.’ That’s what I’m going to continue to do is just grow where I’m planted.”

Bobo said he’s seen tremendous growth in Whitted as a coach over the past three seasons. He has gained a better understanding of how each part of the offense interacts and influences the others. It’s the kind of knowledge he’ll need to eventually run his own offense or own team.

Whitted said he’s soaking up everything he can from Bobo, who he calls “one of the most brilliant offensive minds that I’ve ever been around.

“I’ve learned so much football from him,” Whitted said. “The way that he teaches, the way that he goes about organization and just teaching the offense and how he tries to develop quarterbacks..”

It’s a two-way street.

CSU is one of only two schools in the country that has had two finalists for the Biletnikoff Award in the past four seasons. Neither Higgins or Gallup won the award — no player outside of a Power 5 conference school has since Louisiana Tech’s Troy Edwards in 1998 — but both have set themselves up nicely for success in the NFL.

Higgins, a fifth-round selection in the 2016 NFL draft, just completed his second season with the Cleveland Browns with 27 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns. Gallup is projected as a second- or third-round pick in this year’s draft, which began with first-round picks Thursday night.

“I thank God that I’ve been in this position,” Whitted said. “I’ve had the opportunity to have some really talented players. But, at the same time, they also trusted me to let me in and allow me to do my work, and then it became a relationship. And that’s what I want to continue to do while I’m here is develop the guys that come in this building and make them better in every way that I can — make them better men, make them better dads, husbands.

“That’s what I’m here for.”

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Whitted knows he can’t stay at CSU forever. Not in his chosen profession.

His wife knows it, too. She was a head swimming coach at Georgia Southern for four years and New Mexico for nine before coming to CSU. They’ve been fortunate to be here for as long as they have, Tracy said.

For now, though, Alvis Whitted and his family are where they want to be, doing what they want to do. Tracy has a Ph.D, is teaching online courses in leadership and sports management for four different universities. And Alvis, who raced CSU’s fastest players and beat them all in his first year with the Rams, is teaching young receivers how to get the most out of the talent they have.

He knows he made the right choice.

“I made a good life for myself and my family just because I knew I had a great love for the game, and I want to show these guys that, ‘Hey if you go about things the right way, you can make a good life for yourself and you can use football as a means to an end — as a platform; use football to get a degree.”

“That’s why I wanted to get into it. And it’s a way to stay young, too.”

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