Griff Whalen excelled as a defensive back and quarterback at Southview High School and is now playing on one of college football’s biggest stages at Stanford University.
Whalen helped Southview go 11-2 and reach the Division II regional finals as a senior in 2007. He earned All-Ohio first team honors and was a member of the All-Blade team after accounting for 18 touchdowns under coach Jim Mayzes.
He drew interest from Division I college programs including Dayton, Western Michigan, and Toledo. Also an elite lacrosse player, Whalen mulled the idea of pursuing that sport in college. But Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh convinced him to go to California to play for the Cardinal. But Whalen was not given a scholarship, he was treated as a preferred walk-on. Whalen, however, quickly earned a scholarship and settled in at wide receiver.
He worked his way into the lineup in 2009, appearing in 12 games. He made two starts and caught seven passes for 60 yards. Last season as a junior he played in all 12 games and had 17 receptions for 249 yards. He caught a career-high five passes for 78 yards at Oregon, including his first career touchdown from Andrew Luck. This season he is averaging 11.2 yards per reception with nine catches for 102 yards.
Whalen not only plays with Heisman Trophy candidate Luck, he also is the roommate of the much publicized quarterback. Standford is currently ranked No. 7 with a 4-0 record.
How did you end up at Stanford?
I sent out football highlights to schools all over the country, and one day Jim Harbaugh called Coach Mayzes saying they were interested in me. They flew me out there for a visit, and I loved it right away. Everyone on the team and all the coaches were really friendly. Going somewhere that would be academically challenging was also important to me, and I knew I would find that at Stanford. Then it was just waiting to see if I got accepted, which fortunately I did.
How have you adjusted to life as a college athlete?
Becoming better at managing the different aspects of my life, assignments and football and everything else. I used to be a big procrastinator, and still am sometimes, but that’s something I’ve had to work on. The other thing is being farther away from my family and my girlfriend. My girlfriend goes to Toledo University, so we have a long distance relationship, but we visit each other as much as possible. My dad and step-mom and little brother and sister now live in Louisville, Kent., and my mom and step-dad now live in Seattle. We are basically here year-round for football, so there are only a few weeks a year when I can go home to visit. So I don’t get to see them as much as I wish I could.
What have you liked most about your experience?
The relationship I have with my teammates. I can’t believe the quality of the people I am surrounded by. There are a hundred guys I could call at anytime for anything, and they would be there to help me. Also I love the atmosphere around all our games, playing against some of the best teams in the country in front of huge crowds. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I’m one of those guys I used to watch on Saturdays on TV when I was little. You can just feel the energy, and you can’t hear yourself think. Sometimes you can actually feel the ground vibrating beneath you.
What’s it like playing with a Heisman Trophy candidate?
I think it gives us all some extra confidence. We know how good he is, and it’s a good feeling to have the best quarterback, maybe the best player in the country.
What kind of roommate is Andrew Luck?
He’s a good roommate. We get along really well so it’s a pretty natural relationship. For the most part he has a pretty calm lifestyle, does some homework, maybe watches some TV, and tries to go to bed early. Neither of us are neat-freaks at all, so our place tends to slowly build up a mess.
At what point did you feel like you belonged?
Pretty soon after I arrived. When I first got there I was kind of quiet and a little nervous, but after a few days of training camp, spending like 16 hours a day together, I began to feel comfortable here right a way with my team.
What has been your most memorable moment?
When I caught my first touchdown. It was at Oregon.
Do you keep track of the Southview football team?
Yeah, I do. I check The Blade online every weekend to see how they did, and I talk to Coach Mayzes sometimes too. I was back recently for our bye week, and got to see them pull out a nice win over a good Maumee team.
What was it like to play for Jim Mayzes?
I was great, and it played a big part in me being the player I am today. He has this natural ability to get even the quieter kids, like myself, to get really fired up.
What is your major, and what do you hope to do after you graduate?
I am a B.S. candidate in Engineering, in the field of Product Design. After I graduate I will pursue playing football at the next level, and after that I don’t know what exactly I want to do with my degree, but I love designing and making new things.
— Mark Monroe