Getting to Know...Ryan Whalen
Oct. 15, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - After making the team as a walk-on in the summer of 2007, Ryan Whalen quickly earned full scholarship status largely due to his work ethic, determination and talent.
He caught just one pass as a freshman only to emerge as Stanford's top receiver a year ago when he caught a team-high 41 passes for 508 yards and one touchdown.
Whalen entered fall camp with a new sense of confidence in his role. Six games into his junior season, he ranks second in the Pac-10 and 44th nationally in receiving yards per game with a 77.2 average. He has caught a team-high 27 passes for 463 yards and two touchdowns.
He had a career-best nine receptions for 123 yards at Wake Forest and recorded his second 100-yard game of the season against UCLA, hauling in six passes for 118 yards.
'Ryan is our steadiest receiver,' said head coach Jim Harbaugh. 'He does everything right. If a player isn't sure how to go about things, I tell him to watch Ryan. He'll never be outworked.'
GoStanford.com recently caught up with Ryan to discuss his Stanford experience, campus life away from the football field and his interests away from football.
What makes the Stanford football program unique?
'The combination of athletics and academics at Stanford brings quality young men to the football program who are very talented on and off the field. The Stanford football program also attracts players from all around the country which is very unique. It's awesome to have such a close-knit group of friends from all across the country. The Pac-10 is in my opinion one of the best conferences in the nation and is highly competitive, so it's great to play in this conference, too.'
What did you write on your Stanford admissions essay about?
'I wrote my Stanford admissions essay about all of the important people in my life. I described a photograph that contained all of my supporters. It included my immediate and extended family as well as influential coaches and close friends.'
Tell us about your major?
'I'm majoring in science, technology and society (STS). I have a technical literacy focus on management science and engineering and a thematic concentration in social change. I look forward to diving deeper into my major the next two years.'
What has been your quintessential Stanford moment as student?
'I don't think I could pinpoint one quintessential moment as a Stanford student, but it's really incredible to meet so many wonderful people at Stanford. Whether it is a classmate or a freshman roommate, everyone at Stanford student has a great story and has so much to offer. It has been memorable making these friendships outside the football team.'
What are you really talented at besides football?
'I played the saxophone for six years and played in the jazz band all the way through middle school. Unfortunately my class schedule would not permit me to continue in high school.'
What are you constantly working on to improve as a player?
'I'm constantly working on my technique. This includes working releases versus a corner playing press coverage, and working all of the routes. Additionally I really try to improve quickness and speed.'
What does your position coach do really well that gets the most out of yourabilities?
'Coach Shaw was a former receiver at Stanford so he really understands his players. He can communicate really well with us and does a great job of putting us in the position that best maximizes our strengths.'
What's the toughest conditioning drill at Stanford?
'I would have to say the conditioning test. We do the conditioning test before fall camp in August. It serves as a test to make sure we were dedicated in the summer and ready for the fall. It is broken down into four quarters. The first quarter consists of tempo runs. They vary in length and time. If I remember correctly the first quarter is 8 or 10, 7 second tempo runs. The tempo runs are 60 yards for skill players. The second quarter is 4 cut 150s. Cut 150 means 50 yards and back 3 times to total 150 yards. Skill players have 24 seconds to run these. There is a quick halftime break, I think three minutes, and then the third quarter consists of 6 10 second tempos at 80 yards for skill players. The fourth quarter finisher is a 300 yard shuttle. That means 25 yards and back 6 times in 56 seconds for the skill players. The conditioning test is a lot of running and short recovery, but there is no doubt we will be ready to dominate it this summer!'
How do you manage to balance the scheduling demands of playing football andmaintaining a rigorous academic schedule?
'I have been taking a rigorous academic schedule since high school while balancing multiple sports. At Stanford, I am doing the same thing with my academics and football. It all comes down to organization and time management. Fortunately, I had those two skills down when I came to Stanford so I have been able to balance the tough schedule.'
Do you have any pre-game routines?
'Before each game I always get dressed in the same order beginning with my girdle and ending with my helmet. I listen to music and drink a fast twitch energy drink before I hit the field. Also, before I leave the locker room I read a few of my favorite Bible verses and say a prayer. I'm not really superstitious but I definitely get into a routine before the games.'
Who has been the biggest influence in your football career?
'My father has been the biggest influence not only in my football career but also in my life. He has always been there to support me, encourage me, listen to me, and criticize me. He has always been there to push me just a little bit harder and encourages me to be the best I can be everyday.'
What do you like to do away from football?
'Outside of football I like to read, go to the beach, listen to music, watch movies, and hang out with my friends. I have read a few great books recently including Lone Survivor and Angels and Demons. I really enjoy being out in the sun.'
Do you have any hidden talents?
'I'm pursuing a minor in Spanish. My mother speaks Spanish and I started talking classes in middle school. I find it really cool to be able to speak another language, especially living in California I have the opportunity to practice a lot. The Spanish classes are really interesting at Stanford. I hope to be fluent one day soon.'