Litton, area's top-rated QB, learns from growing pains
BY NICK WILLIAMS Tribune staff
Published: August 23, 2013
Updated: August 23, 2013 at 03:13 PM
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Gulf at Berkeley Prep
Steinbrenner at Sunlake
Alonso at King
Cooper City at Armwood
Blake at Tampa Bay Tech
Bloomingdale at Freedom
Bradenton Lakewood Ranch at Brandon
Carrollwood Day at North Port Imagine
Gaither at Wharton
Clearwater at Hillsborough
Plant City at Jefferson
Lennard at St. Pete Catholic
Riverview at Leto
Spoto at Newsome
Seminole Osceola at Robinson
Tampa Catholic at Sickles
Strawberry Crest at Middleton
Seffner Chr. at Northside Chr.
Chamberlain at East Bay
Orlando Oak Ridge at Durant
Tallahassee Godby vs. Plant at Raymond James Stadium, 3 p.m.
TAMPA — Wharton High senior quarterback Chase Litton knows there are misconceptions about his character.
He also understands most of that is because of his actions.
But as he journeys through his final season, which begins tonight, he hopes to turn doubters into believers and judgment into acceptance while showing that his true nature is what matters most to the 6-foot-6, 205-pound college prospect.
Litton enters the 2013 season as the top-rated quarterback in the Tampa Bay area. A consensus three-star prospect, his list of college suitors include Louisiana State University, South Florida, Marshall, Western Kentucky and Western Michigan. He also has received interest from Florida and Louisville.
His sophomore year, however, Litton made a decision that could have crippled his chance to play at the next level.
In February 2012, Litton and a former Wharton teammate were arrested on multiple charges, both felony and misdemeanor, for burglary and theft. Litton was booked on 10 counts and faced charges of third-degree felony burglary of unoccupied dwellings and vehicles, as well as theft.
“I look back at it now and realize it was a huge mistake,” Litton said. “I can't say I was pressured, but I was with wrong the people at the wrong time. A lot of people are going to perceive things about me from that, and I understand that. The worst thing is it hurt my family name. My mom was crying and my dad, I'll never forget the look on his face.”
Litton entered a pre-trial intervention program, performing community service, and the charges were administratively dismissed. According to Litton's father, Jeff, Chase served more than the amount of community service hours required.
“He knows he's not invincible,” Jeff Litton said. “Just because he has athletic ability, he knows it can be gone in an instant. But he got a second chance. He knows there's no room for error. It was a revelation that he almost had everything taken away from him.”
Litton said the incident is a topic of discussion when he meets with college coaches, who say they don't want the risk of signing a troublemaker. Fortunately for Litton, the arrest has not been a detriment to his recruitment. On June 17, he announced his commitment to South Florida, only to announce a month later via Twitter he was de-committing.
In retrospect, it was another decision Litton wished he would have thought through.
“The way I handled it was immature, and I understand the way I handled it,” Litton said. “I should have called them, I should have let people know ahead of time. We ended up parting ways, but I love USF, and loved everything about them at the time being, and I still do.”
Overcoming his past is a constant battle. Also a standout basketball player at Wharton, Litton said fans chant and shout phrases relating to his arrest during games.
“I'm going to prove it on the field and on the court,” he said. “If you talk back, they win.”
All the while, Chase's mother, Lisa, has been engaged with a battle of her own. After overcoming cancer, Lisa was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus.
“She's fighting,” Chase Litton said. “She's always fought through it. If anything, she always has her head up, and so do I.”
For Chase, football is an escape.
“As big and as strong as he thinks he is, he's scared to death,” Jeff Litton said. “He's scared to death about his mom. Football is a release. He can go out there for 60 minutes and let it all out. You can see it in his performance.”
Litton ended the 2012 football season as the top passer in Hillsborough County and the state's third-ranked quarterback for passing yards after he completed 181 of 310 attempts for 2,732 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also scored 1520 on his most recent SAT and has a 3.3 grade-point average.
Though college football is on the horizon, the senior wants focus on his final year of high school.
“Obviously, I want to go out on top,” Litton said. “I have the teammates to do it. I have great receivers and a good running back coming back, who to me is one of the best running backs we've ever had. They're my brothers.
“I look at them every day, and I wouldn't pick anyone else to go to war with.”