Washington Redskins' fans may want to keep the name Will Whitticker in the back of their minds this season. As the Washington Post has reported*, "Big Will", a free agent who was cut by the Packers and waived by the Dolphins, is turning some heads in the team workouts. Says Joe Bugel, "I don't like this kid; I love him ... a 350-pound guard who can play both right and left. We worked him out midseason last year and liked him. As soon as the season ended, we couldn't wait to sign him. He's a real solid football player and a real good kid. When we had a chance to get him there was no hesitation on my part at all. He belongs here."
And what's not to like? Standing at 6-5 and reportedly weighing in at nearly 350 pounds, the young guard surprised many by starting 14 games for the Packers in 2005. Although his injury problems have sent him from team to team looking for a home, his potential is evident to the coaches in Washington. Gibbs and Bugel also know the value of quality line depth, which was highlighted when an injury to backup Ray Brown in 2005's divisional playoff game forced Washington to juggle a second-string center in the guard position. Todd Wade -- who before last year had a story similar to Whitticker's -- was recruited as an unheralded backup in 2006, and his solid play following an injury to Jon Jansen was rewarded with a contract and a shot at starting on the line this year. Whitticker might get a similar opportunity in 2007 since Dockery is gone, Wade is slated to start, and several of the aging offensive linemen have histories with injury.
Whitticker's main challenge will be re-establishing himself as a lineman who has the ability to start games in this league. He suffered from some inconsistencies with the Packers in his rookie season, looking as though he had locked up a starting job before losing that status near the end of the preseason. Of course, his hamstring injury from 2005 also leaves questions about whether or not he will have the physical capacity to thrive in D.C. Still, however, with an aging offensive line (it is, of course, difficult to imagine Jansen, Chris Samuels, and Randy Thomas all playing here in two or three years' time) Whitticker is precisely the kind of talent Washington can afford to groom. In one or two years, Big Will might very well fully overcome his injury, and have gained enough experience to take over a starting spot for the Redskins.
Will was raised in Marion, Indiana, where he played at the offensive tackle position in high school. He was named to the PrepStar and SuperPrep All-Midwestern teams in his senior year, and he was twice selected all-state and all-conference. Whitticker then played for the Michigan State Spartans, becoming a four-year letterman and three-year starter for the team. He was given freshman All-America honors by Football News after his 2001 rookie campaign. Playing in 48 total games, and starting for 31 (including all 12 games in his senior year), Big Will recorded 222 total pancake blocks, including 83 in his senior year, which both led his team and was a career high. His coaches graded him at a 90 percent or better for every game of his senior year.
The Redskins' coaches no doubt also appreciate Will for his character. Throughout his career, Whitticker has shown extensive effort in giving back to the community. While at Michigan State, he visited local elementary schools to read with young students. His non-profit organization, the "Big Will Foundation", was established shortly after he was drafted by Green Bay. It focuses on directing resources towards educational needs for underprivileged children in his hometown.
Personal Data: College: Michigan State
Draft: 2005 – 7th round by Green Bay Packers