On the football field and off, it appears, whenever Whalen sees a seam he bursts through it and finds clean air.
“Yeah, Griffer,” Luck said after a recent practice. “He’s always surprised people. I remember [him] coming in as a freshman, as a walk-on, we thought [Stanford] had the best scout team in America because sort of throw the ball up to Griff and he would go run and catch it. He’s always surprised people. He ended up earning a scholarship. He’s just a good, solid, steady guy, and he’s working his butt off. So it’s good.”
It’s not just Luck singing Whalen’s praises. And it’s not just Luck he’s catching passes from.
Whalen has been equally effective whether he’s working with backup Matt Hasselbeck, third-stringer Chandler Harnish or getting a rare rep with the first unit.
“He is just a reliable guy,” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “He studies his craft. He’s a gym rat. He’s here all the time. He’s working. He knows what to do. He doesn’t make mental mistakes. It’s going to be really hard to get rid of a guy like that. So he is going to make it hard on us to try to get rid of him. So he is doing a great job.”
Whalen joined the Colts as the NFL’s version of a walk-on — an undrafted free agent. Now he’s drawing comparisons to a young Wes Welker, Julian Edelman or Austin Collie from Pagano, and he’s turning heads on the practice field.
It’s a familiar position for the 23-year-old from Sylvania, Ohio, who has played the underdog role for most of his football life.
“Yeah, you could say that,” Whalen said. “In certain situations, especially going into college the first few years there, absolutely, and then again right now I kind of have that feeling. I don’t really have all the hype and the big name. So I feel like I have to work extra hard.”