Last year in preseason, Whalen had four receptions for 59 yards at Pittsburgh. He followed that with an eight-catch, 66-yard effort against Washington.
Against Washington, he did not catch a pass until midway through the third quarter. Five receptions then came on Colts scoring drives in the final period.
Whalen aggravated a foot that had previously been injured, and he later went on injured reserve for the season.
“We always talk to everybody about becoming necessary, and he is one of those guys that is becoming necessary,” said Chuck Pagano. “Make yourself necessary. He is one of those guys that from a special teams standpoint (is contributing).
“Number one, he can do a lot of things for you and then number two, he knows every position as far as wide receiver positions go. I don’t know if he ever drops a pass, if any. He is very, very reliable.”
Whalen was a walk-on at Stanford who was one of eight true freshmen to play in 2008. As his career progressed, Whalen had a nine-reception, 107-yard outing in 2011 against Oregon.
That year, he led the team with 749 reception yards and four scores, winding up with 1,058 career yards and five scores.
“He’s always surprised people,” said
“He’s always surprised people. He ended up earning a scholarship. He’s just a good, solid, steady guy and he’s working his butt off, so it’s good.”
Whalen makes a habit of working hard and not saying much. When asked if he felt he has lived his career as an underdog, Whalen paused before agreeing.
“Yeah, you could say that,” said Whalen. “In certain situations, especially going into college the first few years there, absolutely, and then again right now I kind of have that feeling. I don’t really have all the hype and the big name so I feel like I have to work extra hard.”
Pagano on Thursday mentioned Whalen with some names recognizable to all football fans.
“He is no different than Wes Welker in the early stages, (Julian) Edelman, Austin Collie, those type of guys,” said Pagano. “He is just a reliable guy, he studies his craft, he’s a gym rat, he’s here all the time, he’s working, he knows what to do, he doesn’t make mental mistakes.
“It’s going to be really hard to get rid of a guy like that, so he is going to make it hard on us to try to get rid of him. He is doing a great job.”
Whalen is making a push in an offense being installed by Pep Hamilton, who mentored him at Stanford. Being familiar with the offense before is no crime, it happens because of grit and prior homework.
“It definitely helps,” said Whalen. “Last year was my first time learning a new offense, so not having to do that again was really nice this year. Just kind of already knowing it all, just allows me to play fast not having to think too much when I am out there.”
Whalen admits this off-season was a long one for him because the entire 2012 regular season felt like the off-season. He worked to reach this moment, and now he is taking advantage of the chance to earn a spot.
“For me it was just big, psychologically, that I am back where I want to be,” said Whalen. “That whole offseason there was a little bit of that worry like, ‘Am I really going to be back? Is my foot going to be OK?’ It feels great. I’m happy with that.”