Warriors' Whaley to play for Tusculum

By Jeff Birchfield

   After a prep football career filled with spectacular runs, bone-jarring hits and booming punts, a few strokes of the pen were all that was required for Tim Whaley to take his skills to the next level. On Friday, the Happy Valley star signed to play this fall at Tusculum College.
   "This has always been a dream," said Whaley, soon to be cast in a role as an outside linebacker for the Pioneers. "This is what I expected and this is what I got. Tusculum is a great school with great facilities."
   Most of the press surrounding Whaley's high school career centered on his offensive exploits. As a senior tailback at Happy Valley, Whaley rushed for over 1,200 yards, including a 300-yard plus effort in the regular season finale against Chuckey-Doak.
   With his defense, Whaley gained the reputation as a ferocious hitter, playing at the inside linebacker slot. He also became a valuable part of the special teams unit, showcasing outstanding punting skills.
   "He's one of the better athletes in East Tennessee," said Tusculum head coach Frankie DeBusk. "It's one of the reasons he interested me. I would never rule him out from doing anything for us on the field. I thought he was going to a Division 1-AA school and I think we are fortunate to get him."
   Whaley's high school coach Stan Ogg echoed those sentiments, saying: "He probably will play on the defensive side of the ball, but with Tim they are getting an athlete. They can find a place for him to play. There are a lot of places that he can play."
   Tall at 6-2 and lean, Whaley easily has the potential to add bulk before the season begins.
   "A lot of kids you don't know how much they will grow," said DeBusk. "Tim's lean and he has the opportunity to put on weight to get bigger, faster and stronger. He comes from a good system. I think a lot of Stan Ogg and I know how he pushes players. I know what kind of player we are getting."
   The placement at outside linebacker should allow the speedy Whaley's defensive skills to flourish.
   "They didn't talk to me about being an inside linebacker, because I'm not as bulky as they feel I should be to play there," said Whaley. "At outside linebacker I can use my defensive speed to get to the ball. That should be a good position for me, but I'm just happy to be playing."
   His freshman season at Tusculum will be hard pressed to match his senior season at Happy Valley. On the football field Whaley and the Warriors compiled a 9-2 overall record. On Thursday Whaley led the Warrior basketball team as they clinched the Watauga Conference regular season championship.
   Ogg feels Whaley should easily adapt to the change in scenery and life as a college athlete.
   "His best football is ahead of him," said Ogg. "I think Tusculum will be pleasantly surprised. They are going to get a good player that will help them for four years. He has the athletic ability and the desire."
   One familiar face Whaley should see over the course of the season is former HV teammate Forrest Holt, who now plays for Tusculum's chief rival Carson-Newman.
   "I will be looking forward to that," said Whaley. "I went to the game this past year when Tusculum played Carson-Newman. I went over at halftime and talked to Forrest a bit. It will be fun to play against somebody I went to high school with."
   On the coaching staff at Tusculum, Whaley will learn from people who have excelled at high levels on the gridiron. Coach DeBusk was a Southern Conference player of the year at Furman, while head recruiter Dieter Brock was a NFC West title-winning signal-caller for the Los Angeles Rams.
   "They seem like real nice guys," said Whaley. "Before I went down there I didn't know much about them. After I was sitting down there talking to people, they were telling me about them. They told me about Dieter Brock being the recruiting coach around here and that he played for the Rams.
   "That kind of made it special for me to have someone who played for the Rams seeing me. I'm glad to be a part of that."
   Important to Whaley's future is that he's not only extending his football career, but is furthering his education. His mother, Brenda, who was at the signing along with Whaley's sister Terra, talked of being proud of her son and surprised that football has given him such a golden opportunity.
   For Tim, he's ready to buckle up his chin strap and tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
   "It's a great opportunity to play at the next level and to see what I can do," said Whaley. "There are plenty of great people from the state of Tennessee and from surrounding states that play for Tusculum. I'm just happy to go there.
   "The coaches all told me that education is first and I agree with them. I just want to work hard and to do my best."