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Flames Feature: A Man Fighting For Liberty

October 20, 2006
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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McWhorter is a member of the Air Force National Guard.

McWhorter is a member of the Air Force National Guard.

A few hours northeast of Lynchburg in Philadelphia sits Independence Hall, a building that played witness to the greatest event in our country's history. That hallowed edifice was where the foundation was laid for our great nation. 

"The City of Brotherly Love" is also the home of the Liberty Bell, which now resides for public viewing a stone's throw from its old home in the tower of Independence Hall. 

The inscription in the historic bell reads "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants there of", which comes from Leviticus 25:10. 

As the Liberty Flames take to the field Saturday afternoon against Gardner-Webb, that inscription means more to senior defensive lineman Don Carlos McWhorter than to most people in the stadium. 

That is because McWhorter is a member of the Air Force National Guard and, because of a mistake made by the National Guard with regard to his security clearance, he won't be boarding a plane this weekend to Iraq with the rest of his unit. 

McWhorter joined the guard more than four years ago and is in a civil engineering unit based in Virginia Beach where he works as a carpenter and a welder. McWhorter, who travels to Virginia Beach one weekend a month for additional training, had his security clearance information lost a couple of times when a new employee came into the position that handled clearance for his unit. 

Due to the oversight, McWhorter now has the ability to complete his final year with the Flames' football program as well as finish all his classes in time for his December graduation. 

His diligence to the National Guard has affected his football career. In September 2004, McWhorter missed over two weeks of school and football when his unit was called to Florida for hurricane relief after Hurricane Frances hit the coast. Before leaving, McWhorter was excited about getting a chance to play special teams. When called for duty, though, it put him behind on the field and when he returned he only saw action in one game. 

This situation may seem unfortunate to some, but not to McWhorter who is just happy to be here. "I wasn't recruited out of high school and I walked on here at Liberty and it has been a dream come true," said McWhorter. "I almost didn't have a chance to play college football at all, so whether I am playing a lot or not at all, it has been great to be a part of this team for the past four years." 

McWhorter has appeared in all six of the Flames' games this season and has recorded three solo tackles. "Don Carlos is a very hard-working kid and is willing do anything we ask him to do," stated head football coach Danny Rocco. "He is very committed to the program and is a very strong individual on and off the football field." 

Liberty was an unlikely destination out of high school for McWhorter. "I didn't know much about Liberty, but was intrigued by the school," explained McWhorter. "My high school coach tried to discourage me about attending Liberty because he wasn't a fan of what Liberty stood for." 

Not recruited out of high school, McWhorter attended Thomas Nelson Community College for a year, an institution that lacked a football program. 

During that spring semester, McWhorter decided to join the National Guard to help generate money for school. He attended basic training before enrolling at Liberty in the fall of 2003 and later walked on to the Flames' football team. Despite being advised to the contrary a few years earlier, McWhorter saw Liberty as a place to grow spiritually while playing football. 

"The first year I really didn't grow spiritually like I thought I would," commented McWhorter. "However, after that year, I really grew thanks to former teammate Rayshawd Barkley and Coach [Ed] Gomes. The Bible studies and discipleship meetings really helped me grow my identity in Christ." 

Another major influence in McWhorter's life is his father, Don Carlos McWhorter, Sr. The elder McWhorter served in the Air Force as a civil engineer and the younger McWhorter was born in Japan when the family was stationed overseas. McWhorter, Sr. is retired and lives in Newport News, but still serves as a contractor for the government, working in intelligence with a satellite company. 

"My father is a man of integrity who takes care of responsibility," said McWhorter. "Growing up in the church and seeing him serve in the military has been a great influence on me." 

The positive influence of his father has led McWhorter to consider joining the Air Force as an officer upon graduation in December. "I might go into the Air Force or I might take my finance degree, enter the corporate world and eventually attend graduate school," said McWhorter. 

As his time at Liberty begins to wind down there are a few things McWhorter holds close to his heart. On the field, he will never forget his first career start against Concord last season when he recorded four tackles. Off the field, he sums up everything with Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." 

"No matter what, God has a plan. I am playing football, going to school and am a part of the National Guard and He allows me to balance it all for His purpose," said McWhorter.
 
On a day when McWhorter could be boarding a plan to Iraq to help "proclaim liberty through the land," he instead will be on Liberty Mountain helping the Flames seek a victory in their Big South Conference opener, all the while fulfilling the purpose that God has laid out for him.

By Vincent Briedis
Liberty University Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director