Buckeyes#8217; Whaley gives thanks for great season
COLUMBUS — Looking back on his career with the Ohio State Buckeyes, Tyler Whaley says he has a lot to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.
Following an All-Ohio career with the Ironton Fighting Tigers, Whaley passed on offers from smaller colleges and walked on at Ohio State.
He was beaten and bounced around on the scout team his first season, but adjusted in his second year and began to make the players and coaches take notice.
By his redshirt junior season, Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel rewarded Whaley with a full scholarship.
He didn’t disappoint Tressel, his teammates, or the fans.
Whaley was on special teams and worked his way to backup center and earned a varsity letter. Last spring the Buckeyes were in need of a fullback and Tressel moved Whaley to the backfield where the 5-foot-11, 270-pounder seemed like a perfect fit.
Whaley spent the season knocking down defensive linemen and linebackers as halfback Chris “Beanie” Wells ran for more than 1,000 yards and earned first team All-Big Ten honors.
Instead of basking in his accomplishments, Whaley offered thanks to those who stood behind him.
“I want to thank everyone who followed me and commented on my career. I thank all the people of Ironton and outside the community who followed me. I appreciated it. Ironton is my home and always will be,” Whaley said.
Doing the dirty work while Wells took the bows didn’t bother Whaley. His only goals were to play, contribute, and, most of all, win.
“I just kept working hard and kept scratching and scratching until that door opened. I just wanted to work my way in there,” said Whaley.
“Once you prove you can play in there, they can’t not play you if they want to do well. I wouldn’t take anything back. I would do it again. I feel I earned it. I’m glad I did it how I did it.”
Whaley not only got to play as he split time with senior Dionte Johnson, he got to experience the Buckeyes winning. Ohio State finished the regular season 11-1 and Big Ten champions.
The Buckeyes beat rival Michigan for the fifth straight time to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. Whaley said the Michigan was even more special than the last four.
“When I got to go out and hit them, it made my year. You don’t know what it takes until you go out and play in the game. It made everything that much more special,” said Whaley.
“Beating Michigan is always our goal. We always want to beat them. The coaches made it a big issue each year. We set up a clock and it’s all ready started for next year. We always have a period in practice we worked on that team up north.”
Despite playing fullback, Whaley is still the backup center. He practiced both at fullback and center throughout the season.
“I still pack my knee braces and I still go to the offensive line meeting the night before the game. They always have a No. 54 jersey on the sideline in case I have to make the change,” said Whaley.
Although Whaley never carried the ball all season he did catch a pass for 4 yards against Illinois, the Buckeyes only loss. He said it wasn’t an issue.
“I never asked. I may have been pushing issue. I caught that pass in the last (home) game, so that made up for it. Plus, if we were in a situation we were winning, I might lobby to get a carry. But that’s usually the last thing on my mind,” said Whaley.
With a Rose Bowl and possibly an outside chance of making the BCS championship game, Whaley said the season has been very rewarding.
“I felt like I had good season. I contributed when they needed. I was in the mix from the get go. It was nice to get playing time instead to just watching. I’m glad I got the opportunity to play fullback. It made the season for me a lot more fun and more exciting and felt like I definitely contributed,”said Whaley.