By Spencer White
Long gone are the electrifying cheers of 65,000 fans, the resonance of the band playing the Cougar fight song, or the constant attention and spotlight from the media and community. But the game of football itself has not changed for former Cougar standout running back Marcus Whalen.
Whalen says he still has fun playing football. As long as that doesn?t change, people will find him running over linebackers and catching short swing routes.
Whalen is the newest member of the Wasatch Wildcats, a semi-pro team that plays their games at Mountain View High School in Orem. Whalen joins a handful of players from the valley trying to maintain a dream of playing the sport they love.
Head coach Eric Drage, also a former Cougar who used to catch passes from Ty Detmer, recalls the first contact he had with Whalen.
?He [Whalen] called me on the phone and asked about the prospect of playing for our team,? Drage said. ?I told him that our roster was already full and then for courtesy sake asked him a little about his background. When he gave me his full name, I told him we had a spot for him.?
The Wildcats have benefited nicely from his service as Whalen leads the team with 404 yards rushing and five touchdowns over three games. He said he feels like he?s slowly regaining his form.
?I?m just having a lot of fun out there,? Whalen said. ?It is a lot easier and there is a lot less pressure playing away from the spotlight which comes with BYU football.?
After rushing for nearly 1,000 yards in 2002, Whalen began his junior year with hopes of building on that success. A foot injury during pre-game warm-ups cut his season short.
Prior to the start of the 2004 season, Whalen, along with another BYU football player, was charged with a class-A misdemeanor for assault and a class-B misdemeanor for false statement. He was suspended from school and sentenced to 15 days in prison, along with fines and 120 hours of community service.
Whalen said he?s learned a great deal from the experience.
?The kind of people you hang out with is a big deal,? he said. ?You need to choose the right friends to hang around or you?ll find yourself jumping on the bandwagon and making choices that you later regret.?
Paul Tidwell, a current assistant coach on the BYU football team, coached Whalen for two years.
?Marcus has been through some tough challenges in his life, but he is a great person,? Tidwell said. ?He?s a power runner and with a little more work I think he could contribute at the next level.?
Whalen ran for the NFL scouts in March but said he was not pleased with the results.
?I didn?t know what to expect going into the drills,? he said. ?I have a better idea now and am confident that I can improve when I run again.?
He will travel to Baltimore on June 4 and get another opportunity to run. A good showing in Baltimore would give him the chance to run at a larger combine in Indiana on June 11.
While dreams of playing in the NFL are on the horizon, Whalen is enjoying the present and helping the Wildcats win games.
?I know I?ve made mistakes, but I?m trying to be a good person, and I?m having fun playing the game I love,? he said.