football

Kevin Whaley: Numbers, Honors and Humility

About a year ago, a poster on the
messageboards, in a rather tongue-in-cheek moment, referred to VirginiaPreps.com
as tyrodtaylor.com presumably because there was a lot of coverage of the Hampton
quarterback who steps under center for the Virginia Tech Hokies now. 
Similarly, we could just as easily been tabbed percyharvin.com or ejmanuel.com
in other years.  While I understand the point, I watch Tyrod and Percy
playing in college on Saturday afternoons now and honestly say to myself,
"we probably should have covered them more" or "we didn't do
enough to talk about how special that kid is".
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I
suspect that feeling will be hitting me over the course of the next three to
four seasons watching Salem High School running back Kevin Whaley take
the field for the Minnesota Golden Gophers to whom he recently verbally
committed.
Make no mistake about it, Whaley put up
astounding numbers throughout his career.  He rushed for over 1,000 yards
in each of his four years at Salem and totaled 6,301 yards in that time. 
Perhaps more impressively, Whaley has a nose for the end zone having reached it
85 times in his high school career in helping the SunDevils improve from their
1-9 mark posted in his freshman season to back-to-back undefeated regular
seasons in his junior and senior campaigns which both resulted in appearances in
the D6 Eastern Region championship game.  The team split their record there
topping Oscar Smith in his junior year 33-7, but falling 17-9 this past season.
The numbers don't seem to really tell the story
of Kevin Whaley though.
He was named to back-to-back All-State teams
and was the VirginiaPreps Eastern Region Offensive Player of the Year in
2006.  He was the Beach District's Offensive Player of the Year in
consecutive season and has been honored in one form or another by virtually
every media outlet in the Tidewater area.  In short, Whaley could spend as
much time in the offseason gathering awards as he does during the season
collecting yards.
Still, there's more to Kevin Whaley.
He measures in at 5-foot-9, 166 pounds --
numbers that can sometimes scare away major DI programs -- but he carries a
reputation of being one of the most fierce competitors in Southeast
Virginia.  He runs a solid 4.5 and is not considering blazingly fast, yet
if you ask anyone who has seen him return a punt or kickoff return, you'll not
hear a story about him being caught from behind.
Perhaps his story is best told by his high
school coach Robert Jackson who described Whaley in a 2007 interview with
Rivals.com's Mike Farrell in this fashion...
"He's a dynamic football player,"
he said. "When I was coaching at Norfolk State, I noticed him as a freshman
and little did I know down the line I'd be able to coach him. He's a heads up
football player that does it all on offense defense and special teams. He's a
guy that doesn't want to come off the field.
"As a running back, he's always going forward. He keeps the sticks moving
and is a player that wants the football and is always up to the challenge. I
hate to tag kids, but he's the type of guy I could see playing on Sundays. He's
got a whole lot of upside to him and still has a lot of room for more." 
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Or
maybe his story can best be told from the opposing team's sidelines? 
Landstown High School Head Coach Steve Canter
calls Whaley "a very good football player with good vision.  He's
tough as nails.  I think that Minnesota's football program is going to be
tougher the day he walks on campus."
Canter continued, "He's played well in big
games.  He's a guy who is going to show up and obviously, you have to be
prepared for him.  I definitely think that he's got a chance to be a
special teams return guy.  I've seen him hurt a lot of teams in that
regard.  He's got great vision and when he hits the holes, he does a great
job of getting through there."
One thing seems to be sure, you won't get much
of Whaley's story from him as he played interviews about his recruiting, his
team and his commitment close to the vest.
Note these quotes from his October interview
with Mike Farrell...
"I haven't really quite focused on
recruiting yet," he said. "I'm supposed to be talking about it
soon with my coaches.
"I'm just working hard in school and
on the field," he said. "The season has been going good. 
We've got some good coaches, we play hard and we play together.
"I'm not sure on my statistics for
the year. I'm happy with my play. I can tell I'm much more explosive and
getting stronger. I just need to get better at everything still."
A month later, in another talk with Farrell,
Whaley again showed a laid back tone saying, "I'm looking for a good
school, a good education and somewhere that has nice people."
Asked about their season-ending loss, Whaley
remained humble and talked about his team first, as is his nature. 
"This team worked hard and stuck together. It was a tough game," he
said. "I did well on the year. I finished around 1,600-yards rushing and
23-touchdowns. I improved a lot. I'm much stronger and faster and working
harder. I just have to continue to improve on everything."
Having interviewed Kevin a number of times
myself and seen him dozens more, I can safely say that those quotes sum up
almost every chat with him -- he's humble, never fails to mention his teammates,
never chases publicity nor beats his chest and always speaks conservatively.
Maybe his story is the sum of all these parts.
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