Bengals sign Whaley as free agent

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 28, 2008

Not only does this storybook career have a new chapter, it’s building toward an even happier ending.

Tyler Whaley passed up several small college offers for a chance to make his favorite team — the Ohio State Buckeyes — as a walk-on.

Whaley not only accomplished that, he earned a scholarship and shared the first team fullback duties with Dionte Johnson this past season as the Buckeyes won the Big Ten and played in the BCS National Championship game.

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With the success he had his senior

season, Whaley began to entertain thoughts of a professional career and excelled at the Ohio State Pro Day.

Those hopes became a reality when the Cincinnati Bengals called Whaley at the conclusion of the NFL draft on Sunday and agreed to a free agent contract.

“I grew up a Cincinnati fan so it’s another childhood dream come true,” said Whaley. “Right now God’s playing my cards right for me.”

Cincinnati Bengals’ assistant coach Ray Oliver spoke briefly with Whaley at the pro day. Running backs coach Jim Anderson called him midway through the draft on Sunday to confirm the Bengals’ interest.

“They were impressed with what I did at Pro Day. (Anderson) told me I was one of the fullbacks they were interested in. They only have one fullback on the roster and they were looking to bring in one or two fullbacks,” said Whaley.

“I felt pretty good about the Bengals after that (call). I was never expecting to get drafted, but you never know.”

Whaley’s work ethic and determination earned him the Bo Rein Most Inspirational Player Award at the annual team banquet last Dec. 2.

“I’ve been lifting and running. I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to be ready if it happened,” said Whaley.

A baseball standout as well as a football star at Ironton, Whaley spent Saturday morning throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Ironton Little League and watching some relatives play.

“I went back to the house and watched to see where Vern (Buckeyes defensive lineman Vernon Gholston) went, then I watched a movie. I went to bed early,” said Whaley.

“I knew if I went, it would be (Sunday). I wasn’t really nervous until Jim Anderson called me. He got my juices going.

The family went to grandparents Tommy and Dottie Tipton’s for dinner. But he said when the sixth round began, everyone started to watch intensely.

“When it got to the sixth and seventh rounds, I got a little stressed. We watched every pick in the seventh round,” said Whaley.

Although he wasn’t drafted, the phone call came literally as the draft was ending.

“As the draft was going off TV my phone was ringing. I told everyone to be quiet so I could hear. After the phone call it went pretty crazy,” Whaley said with a chuckle.

Whaley spoke with his agent who worked out the deals of the contract. The deal was completed 10 minutes after the drafted ended.

“My agent said if it made me feel any better, the Kansas City Chiefs called, too,” said Whaley. “But Kansas City has two on the roster and I knew I would go in with two veterans on the team. Now I’m going in with one free agent and I just have to work to beat out one guy.”

The Bengals rookie mini-camp will be held this weekend. Whaley said he will arrive on Thursday for a physical and to complete any paper work with actual workouts Friday through Sunday.

Whaley said he saw a Bengals game live as a youngster when they played at Riverfront Stadium. He didn’t return until two years ago for a Thursday night game against Baltimore.

“My fianc/ used to live in Cincinnati and she got tickets. I left right after I got out of a meeting and we made it just as they were kicking off,” said Whaley.

“It was hard for me to go once I got in college because of travel and practice. I watch them as much as I can on TV.”

There may be one drawback if Whaley makes the Bengals’ roster. He and fianc/ Brittany Benjamin have a wedding date of Dec. 6.

“We’ll have to wait and see how this football season goes. It’s postponed for right now,” said Whaley.