Freshman Will Whitman’s humble aspirations didn’t quite match up to his stature.
“I was just hoping to make the travel team. That was my goal,” confesses the soft-spoken, 6’6”, 260 lb. freshman right tackle from Kentucky.
And so far, he’s accomplished a lot more than that. As Harvard’s starting right tackle for its opener against Holy Cross, Whitman traveled to Worcester and likely cemented his role as starter for the season.
While other freshman football players settle into their roles on the J.V. team, Whitman, who was recruited as a left tackle, has already been asked to change positions on the line, moving from right guard and then again to right tackle. He’s also had to learn the bulky offensive playbook and step into the void left by Brent Osborne ’11, who recently signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
As daunting as his task may seem, it is one he accepts with realistic expectations.
“I’m just going to try my best to do what I’m supposed to do and help us win,” Whitman said. “I’m not trying to show I can replace an NFL player this year, because there’s no real way I can.”
But what Whitman can do is continue to gain experience—and impress his teammates.
“He’s had some very successful games as a freshman, and I’m definitely excited to see him get after it,” praises junior running back Treavor Scales, who will have Whitman blocking when he runs to the right. “Whit’s already a heck of a player.”
On the line, Whitman has found a group of mentors who have helped him quickly step into a starting role.
“He’s always willing to listen and very coachable, and I think that shows in how much he’s learned in such a short time,” says senior left tackle Kevin Murphy.
Whitman’s confidence isn’t just evident in his ability to move into the starting position at such a young age. He is also one of just a few kids from his hometown to go to college so far away, and is one of a select few to ever come to Harvard from Lexington Catholic, his high school.
Leaving such a tight-knit community has not been always been easy.
“It’s been my first time away from home for longer than a week,” Whitman shares.
He adds that head coach Tim Murphy and offensive line coach Joe Conlin have been very caring and “like dads away from home for me,” becoming a part of the close community he has found within the football program.
“The offensive line is usually among the closest units on the team, by virtue of what they do,” Murphy said. “The upperclassmen have really taken [Whitman] under their wing.”