You must be logged in to see this image or video!
Where there's a Will ... there's a way to succeed
Whitticker finding his place in Packers lineup, fans' hearts
BY ADAM FISHER
GREEN BAY, Wis. - From the early morning practices to the late night film sessions, almost everything about becoming an NFL player has been an adjustment for rookie Will Whitticker. But one aspect of his new life as a Green Bay Packer seems familiar - his new home.
Whitticker, a Marion native in his first NFL training camp, likes Green Bay because it reminds him of his hometown, making the transition into his new job easier and smoother.
"(Green Bay) is kind of like Marion, where it's small, so you don't have to worry about the life of a big city," Whitticker said. "The cost of living is not that expensive. It's a friendlier city. It reminds me a lot of Marion."
That's about all that is the same for the new Packer, drafted out of Michigan State in the seventh round of April's NFL draft. And while Whitticker feels at home his new surroundings, he rarely has time to enjoy them.
He wakes up at 6:30 a.m. on a typical day at training camp. After a practice session from 8:30 to 11:15 a.m., the players get a few hours for lunch before another practice from 2:45 to 4 p.m. Dinner break lasts until 7:30 p.m., when the players gather to watch film until 9:30 p.m. Then it's off to bed by 11 or 11:30 p.m. at the latest.
"It's a long day," Whitticker said. "It's always a long day."
Wednesday was a rare short day for Whitticker and the Packers. The team had just one practice, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and had the afternoon off. Even after the abbreviated schedule, Whitticker said he still felt worn out.
"I lose a lot of sleep," the rookie said. "Even now with our (short) schedule, I don't get a lot of sleep."
Of course, sleep comes easier for Whitticker this week. Sunday, the Packers moved from the dorms of Saint Norbert College in nearby De Pere, Wis., to a high-scale hotel within walking distance of the team's practice facility in Green Bay. The Packers lived in the dorms the first three weeks of camp, as many NFL teams do.
Despite all the drastic changes, Whitticker is adjusting well to his new team. So well that, as a rookie, the 6-foot-5-inch, 334-pound lineman is in the running for the starting spot at right guard. Whitticker has started two preseason games thus far and could start another Friday against the defending national champions, the New England Patriots.
His success is no surprise to those closest to him. Whitticker's mother, Joselyn, and stepfather, Bill Springer, said their son has always worked hard to get what he wants.
"Will rises to any challenge put up to him," Springer said. "That's the reason he's playing so well with the first string. And the surface hasn't been scratched."
His mother added that his intelligence and willingness to learn are what's driving his success during camp. Whitticker's parents saw him in action Aug. 11 in the Packers' first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers. They also will be on hand when Green Bay opens the regular season Sept. 11 in Detroit.
"He's adjusting and learning," Joselyn Whitticker said. "He's just laying back, taking it in and understanding what the whole thing is about."
One thing Whitticker has learned in camp is that the Packers have some of the most loyal, supportive fans in the NFL. Most football watchers don't know the names of offensive linemen, much less rookies, but Whitticker said he gets noticed and already has signed countless autographs.
He said a mere practice with the Buffalo Bills - not a game or even a scrimmage - brought out so many fans he couldn't see past the sidelines of Green Bay's practice facility. More than 15,000 showed up for a rookie practice, he said.
"You have a lot of interaction with the fans," Whitticker said. "They like you here and really do appreciate their players. They are die-hard fans that love the Packers. They take care of you a lot here."
Watch for more reports from Green Bay as C-Tsports writer Adam Fisher follows Whitticker's progress. Check out the Friday and Saturday editions for more news from the Packers training camp.