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USC Aiken lands South Effingham 'leader'
Jaxon Whiddon
Jaxon Whiddon laughs at a joke at his expense during a May 3 signing ceremony in the South Effingham auditorium. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GUYTON — It’s no wonder that Jaxon Whiddon is set to become a University of South Carolina Aiken Pacer. 

According to coach DaKota Paradice, Whiddon always set the tempo and the tone for his first South Effingham boys soccer team.

“(He is) hardworking. I can’t tell you how many times this season he would get aggravated with this group of guys over here and try to push the limit, call them out,” Paradice said while pointing to Whiddon’s teammates during a May 3 signing ceremony in the South Effingham auditorium. “Really, I don’t think anybody had a problem with it. It was the other way around.

“Jaxon always set the tempo.”

Paradice received a scouting report from former coach Matt Hunnewell after taking the Mustangs’ reins last summer. Hunnewell described Whiddon, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound center/outside back, as “hardworking, fun to be around and a leader.”

“As far as fun to be around, maybe not for me. I really don’t enjoy him that much but everybody else seemed to like him,” Paradice said playfully, drawing a laugh from Whiddon and the audience of supporters. 

Then Paradice said Hunnewell’s view of Whiddon’s leadership skills was pinpoint accurate.

“I really couldn’t have asked for more as a leader on the team,” Paradice said. “There are a bunch of guys in here who got in trouble at some point in the season and Jaxon came out there and ran with them when he didn’t have to. That’s because he wanted to be seen as that guy who is a leader.

“Really early on — with me just having impressions and stuff — that is a huge thing. I really couldn’t have asked anything more out of somebody like that.”

Whiddon served as South Effingham’s captain. He did likewise for Savannah United, a premier youth club.

He was named to the All-Region 2-AAAAAA first team twice and was the Mustangs defensive player of the year in 2021.

“And he was a varsity player all four years,” Paradice said. “Anytime you do that — y’all know as well as I do — that’s really impressive.”

Paradice called Whiddon “a great athlete” and “role model.”

“He exemplifies all the qualities when you are trying to find a leader,” Paradice said.

In closing, Paradice borrowed a quote from President Ronald Reagan.

“He once said, ‘The greatest leader is not the one who necessarily does the greatest things but he is the one who gets the people around him to do the greatest things,’” Paradice said. “Jaxon didn’t fill the stat sheet with any kind of measurables that we take note of but I would say without him we don’t win thirteen games, we don’t have six shutouts and we don’t have six blowout wins.”

Whiddon was modest when it came his turn to speak after signing his national letter of intent. He thanked his family, teammates and coaches for their support.