hopefully-award-winning "We Walk!" series,
here is segment #8 of our prolific parade of
poignant articles profiling the twelve terrific new "walk-ons" for Stanford
football in 2009. Once again, it's a family affair down on the Farm, which has
to make it quite nice for the Southern California-based Whitaker clan!
Brotherly love courses through
the veins of the 2009 Cardinal football team, but for freshman walk-on
Eric Whitaker, the bloodline runs much deeper.
“My brother and
I have always had a great relationship, one of the best I’ve seen among
siblings,” Whitaker said. “I love my brother and it is great having him here
Eric and his older brother, Nate Whitaker
[#39], are fellow placekickers on the Stanford football roster. Nate
transferred from Notre Dame in late September of the 2008 campaign,
and unquestionably that has made the transition from high school to college much
easier for his younger brother.
“Having him here made
it all better,” said the younger Whitaker. “I knew I would have someone there to
support me if I had any issues or troubles in college. Football is going really
well right now. It is pretty fun, but awfully hard compared to high
Responsibility is an
intangible challenge many freshmen face when realizing the closet-full of dirty
laundry won’t clean itself or a meal won’t magically appear without a mother to
cook it. Whitaker has experienced a firsthand lesson in becoming accountable on
the football field.
“We have a lot more
responsibility,” he said. “We have to wake up at 6:30 every morning, get out
here on time and go to meetings. We didn’t have meetings in high school; we just
practiced for two and a half hours and then took off.”
Whitaker attended St. Augustine High School (San
Diego) where he earned three varsity
letters for the Saints as a kicker and wide receiver. Eric was a freshman
when his brother was a senior, so the two never competed for playing
“He’s always helped me be the best kicker I can be, but
this is actually the first time we’ve really competed for a position,”
Whitaker stated. “It’s a little weird, but it’s
exciting as well. A little brotherly competition never hurt. I will have to work
on a few things to be at his level, but it’s going to be
Competition for the
starting placekicker position extends beyond the two siblings. Sophomore Travis Golia saw action last season as a kickoff specialist and is in the mix for the
Whitaker attests that
while all three are all competing against one another, they all respect each
other and drive each other to be the best.
“We are all a big
family here, we all help each other out and make each other better,” he
Even away from the
football field, the three amigos share sleeping quarters and enjoy spending time
with one another.
“We are rooming
together right now,” Whitaker said. “It’s actually my brother, Travis and I, so
we are like one kicking family, living together. We all get along really well.
During the day it’s pretty much all football, but we also go to treatment
together and dinner together.”
While the youngest of
the kicking trifecta has the confidence and talent to compete for the starting
position, Whitaker's goals for this season are to improve upon his kicking
skills and push the players around him to become better.
“I am going to do my
best to pressure the other two kickers,” he said. “If it works out that I’m the
best kicker, then so be it. I know that they are both stronger, older and have
more experience right now so I’m looking up to them to lead me on the right
path. I just want to compete with them and make them
Whitaker grew up in
the San Diego area and even though his parents
both attended San Diego State
University, he has always
wanted to attend Stanford.
“If I didn’t get into
Stanford I was going to go to USD to play football for them,” he said. “That was
my second choice, and I was also getting looked at by Brown. Stanford was always
my top choice since my freshman year in high school.”
Whitaker pointed out
what makes Stanford so special - as opposed to staying close to home or
attending an Ivy League program.
“I had my mind set to
come [to Stanford] even before I knew I wanted to play football, but it all just
worked out,” stated Whitaker. “I’ve always heard great things about this school;
great academics, great tradition, great relationships among students and
faculty. That’s just the type of environment I wanted.”
After being sidelined
with a groin injury for a couple of weeks, Whitaker is back in action on the
football field. Prior to the setback, Whitaker said he had lost a bit of
confidence while dealing with a technical issue that involved his leg traveling
inside and around the swing plane, which created a 'helicopter' spin on the
ball, instead of a preferred 'up and out' motion.
“Before I got hurt I
wasn’t feeling it, but when I came back [Thursday] and I was kicking in the
stadium, it felt really good,” Whitaker said. “I think I was thinking about it
too much, focusing on too much all at the same time. It’s kind of a 'nerves'
thing, I guess.”
Sometimes taking time
off to heal an injury, collect thoughts, and regain confidence are the best
things an athlete can do to remedy a problem.
While he admits he is
an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than his older brother, Whitaker has
plenty of power packed into his 5-8, 175-pound frame.
“I am pretty
comfortable hitting 50-yard field goals,” Whitaker said of his range. “The
longest I’ve ever hit in practice was a 60-yarder, but I’ve never tried anything
farther than that. But I can’t do that consistently right now, I have to work a
lot more to get there. The farthest I’ve hit in a game was 46
Outside of football
and studies, Whitaker has a very unique hobby. He has a passion for saltwater
life and maintains a giant tank full of marine creatures at his home in
Whitaker said that his dad is caring for his pets while he is away at college.
His trophy fish is a Frogfish (family Antennariidae),
which he named 'Gorf', deriving from the word “frog” spelt
“They are predator
ambush fish,” he said. “They come from the family of Anglerfish, which are
members of the order Lophiiformes, but they aren't in the deep sea,
most of the time within 40-feet of water. They can also open their mouths 12
times the original size so they can eat fish at least their size and maybe even
twice their size.” [Remember that ghoulish anglerfish that almost fooled and
ate Marlin and Dory in Finding Nemo?]
"Gorf" feeds on other
saltwater fish and shrimp. One day Whitaker inadvertently gave him the delicacy
of a lifetime.
“One time I bought a
gourmet meal for him by accident,” he said. “My grandpa came down to visit
us and I bought a $15 beautiful, tropical fish. It was gone in the morning and
'Gorf' had actually eaten it during the night - so he had a nice gourmet
Whitaker has yet to
declare a major this early into his freshman year, but has a couple areas of
interest he would like to explore.
“I’m kind of
interested in mechanical engineering, designing new things,” Whitaker said. “I
am in between that and graphic design, but I’ve also always wanted to be a
teacher, so that’s another option. I just want to make the best of my time at
Whitaker's knowledge of the life aquatic, maybe marine biology will
be his ultimate calling.