Whaley rebuilding relationships after returning to Mesa
Tanner Whaley was worried his teammates wouldn’t want him back.
He felt bad leaving his football teammates to pursue other opportunities, so when he returned to Mesa State College last spring, Whaley wanted to earn that respect back.
“It was really good to come back,” Whaley said. “I was worried about getting accepted back. I was a little ashamed I left last year and all they went through.”
“I knew I had to work hard and gain back the respect I lost. I still had friends, which was a good thing to come back to, and that helped.”
The sophomore cornerback not only earned the respect of his teammates, he earned a starting spot. Whaley is in the starting lineup for Mesa State (0-1) against Missouri Western State (1-0) at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Stocker Stadium.
“Tanner is a very talented player with athletic ability,” Mesa State coach Joe Ramunno said. “We’ve always liked him. He was a dominant player at Palisade. I felt like he was one of our top recruits. He has great leaping ability and is very athletic.”
The 2007 Palisade High School graduate could have gone to Colorado State University after high school, where his cousin and current Mesa defensive backs coach, Miles Kochevar, played. Whaley received scholarship offers from several RMAC schools before choosing Mesa.
“Coach (Joe) Ramunno was honest with me,” Whaley said. “Western (State) could offer more money, but Ramunno is the type of coach I like.”
Whaley played a lot on special teams as a freshman and blocked a punt that season.
“In my head I wanted to start on defense,” Whaley said. “I had all these opportunities. I thought, ‘why can’t I start?’
“I found my role on the team. I bought into special teams. It’s a huge part of the game in college. I played behind BC (Brandon Charles), (Aaron) Silverthorn and Frankie Berlanga. They took me under their wing, Silverthorn especially. He told me I can’t come in with this big-head attitude. I took it to heart.”
Last fall, Whaley decided to leave Mesa State and enroll at CSU. He hoped to try out for the Rams’ football team, but after enrolling learned he would have to sit out a year and didn’t pursue it.
“The way I think of it is all the years of playing football, you burn out,” Whaley said. “I lost the love of the game, but missing (Mesa’s football season) was the hardest thing. I watched some of Mesa’s games on the Internet. It instilled a new love of the game for me. I knew what it was like not to have football. I play now knowing it will come to an end for me in three years.”
Kochevar said Whaley learned a lot about himself during the semester away.
“It was a good experience for him,” Kochevar said. “He realized what he had here. What it came down to is you can go to school anywhere, but you can’t play football anywhere. It made him more humble. He is grateful for the opportunity to play again. He’s had a good attitude.”
Mesa State was happy to have Whaley back, but he still had to prove he could play.
“He was on scholarship his first year, but we decided not to give it back when he returned,”
Kochevar said. “He had to earn it back and he was good with it. It has pushed him harder.”
Whaley moved from safety to cornerback, but could play safety if he’s needed.
Whaley, who wrote in his player bio in the football program that he loves competition, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Off the field, Miles and I are real close,” Whaley said. “If you ask any DB, we don’t have the best relationship on the field. He is the first to say what I did wrong and he’s the last to tell me I did good. It’s humbling. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I’d rather earn respect.”