As senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley streaked towards the end zone after intercepting a Blake Bell pass in last week’s Red River Rivalry game, only one thought ran through his mind — score.
The 6’3, 295-pound Whaley, who originally committed to Texas as a running back four years ago, hadn’t found the end zone in his first three seasons with the Longhorns. Thirty-one yards after his first career interception, the senior finally registered his first score.
“Once I caught it, I looked up and saw I had enough field to try and run it for a touchdown,” Whaley said. “When I saw the quarterback, I wasn’t going to be denied. I wasn’t going to let him stop me.”
While the interception return proved to be a significant play in the Longhorns’ upset victory over the Sooners, it hardly stands as Whaley’s only major contribution. The senior anchors the interior of the Texas defensive line as a prominent run stopper, racking up 19 tackles, three for a loss, along with one sack in six games this season.
While Whaley consistently produces in the trenches each week, junior defensive end Cedric Reed believes the defensive tackle’s biggest asset remains his ability to direct the Texas defensive front.
“He’s the general of our defense,” Reed said. “He helps us get lined up, he takes it into our hands when we mess up and he just makes sure our practices are straightened up. He’s just a great leader.”
Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat furthered this, saying that in addition to leading communication on the field, Whaley maintains a vocal role in the Texas locker room.
“He’s a big vocal guy,” Jeffcoat said. “He’s the guy that will normally speak up and say what we all feel and he understands what we feel and what needs to be relayed to the whole team. He’s the guy that will speak up and make sure everyone is on the same page.”
Whaley molds his leadership role after the standout veterans who helped ease his transition to Texas as a freshman in 2009. In addition to rallying his teammates with his words, the senior believes leading by example in practice is a necessary part of guiding younger players.
“In order to be a leader you have to practice what you preach,” Whaley said. “If you’re going to preach about working hard you have to do it yourself. I go out everyday with an edge at practice. I’m going to get better every day. Some of the younger guys are watching me, so I’ve got to be a great example for them.”
Whaley experienced Texas’ most recent Big 12 championship in 2009 as a redshirt freshman. After wading through a trio of disappointing seasons over the past three years, the defensive tackle is focused on winning another Big 12 title. Only this time, he wants to be on the field.
“It would mean a lot,” Whaley said. “’09 is the last time Texas won a Big 12 championship. Being a senior and winning a Big 12 championship is a big accomplishment. It would mean a lot to me to turn it around after all those bad seasons we had the last few years.”