Whaley works for roster spot

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 3, 2008

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — It’s one more step on his football ladder.

At Ironton High School, Tyler “Tank” Whaley had to adjust to playing against older players when he became a starter as a sophomore.

Whaley adjusted well and later became an All-Ohio lineman for the Fighting Tigers.

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Following high school, Whaley passed on some smaller college offers and took aim at making the Ohio State Buckeyes roster. It was just another adjustment that he made an eventually earned a scholarship prior to his junior season.

Whaley faces yet one more adjustment to the level of play after signing a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The adjustment began last week as the team opened training camp.

“It’s all about experience. It’s just another level that I have to adjust to,” said Whaley. “It’s different than college, just like college was different than high school. It’s a different speed and the talent level is better.”

The Bengals have only four fullbacks in camp and Whaley began the week at the bottom spot but is currently listed third behind starter Jeremi Johnson and Daniel Coats, a converted tight end. Bradley Glatthaar is listed fourth.

“I felt good about it. Being a free agent, I’m an unknown. Hopefully, I’m still getting an opportunity in the preseason and the (preseason) games. I just need to get in the games so I can show them I can play and maybe then I can make a name for myself,” said Whaley.

“I want them to turn their heads and say, ‘Who’s that guy?’’’

A key to making an NFL team isn’t just about ability. The 5-foot-11, 252-pound Whaley said the game is as much or more mental than physical.

“You spend a lot of time studying. That’s where most of your time is spent,” said Whaley. “It’s more draining mentally than physically. You have to have mental toughness and be ready to go in on any play.”

Whaley has spent the week going through drills similar to what he did at Ohio State where he was a two-time letter winner and split the starting fullback just last season.

“We do a lot of what I’m used to doing at the college level with a big program like Ohio State,” said the former walk-on who earned a scholarship his junior season at Ohio State.

Cincinnati will probably keep only one fullback on its active roster and place another one the practice squad.

“The fullback in today’s game does a lot of blocking. There’s a lot of passing in the NFL and you have to give a lot of pass protection to your quarterback. You have to be able to pick up blitzes and protect the quarterback.”

Although Whaley is working to make the 53-man active roster, he isn’t being delusional about his chances.

“If I make (the roster), it’s because I can play special teams. I have to do something besides play fullback,” he said.

Whaley doesn’t want to think about failing to make the roster, but he does have a backup plan.

“I can try to get on with another team or play arena ball, but I have my degree. I’m in a win-win situation. I have something to fall back on if this doesn’t work out,” said Whaley.

“That takes some of the pressure off.”