Seven games into the season, backup quarterback John Whitelaw ’14 learned that Patrick Witt ’12, Yale’s starting quarterback, might miss the Game to attend his Rhodes finalist interview. While Witt officially announced on Sunday that he had withdrawn his application and will be playing in The Game, for two weeks Whitelaw prepared himself mentally for potentially starting as quarterback. Now that Witt has made his decision known, Whitelaw sat down with the News to discuss his commitment to the team and the role of a backup player.
Q: Tell me what it’s like to play the back-up role for such a big time position at a place like Yale.
A: It’s been interesting. Being behind a prominent guy in Patrick has definitely been a good learning experience, and seeing how he deals with certain situations has taught me a lot. I’m not sure there’s a better person in the country to be backing up or learning from than him.
Q: When you found out you might be the starter this weekend, what was going through your mind?
A: I actually wasn’t that worried about it. A lot of the guys on the team know that Pat takes football very seriously, and that he probably wouldn’t miss the game, especially not the Harvard-Yale game. While it’s unfortunate that he had to miss his Rhodes interview, I think a lot of us knew all along that Patrick is a team player and would be the guy heading into the game.
Q: Did the team do much more to prepare you for this weekend or was it kept standard?
For the most part it was standard. I hadn’t been thinking about it all that much since we had other games and teams to focus on the last couple of weeks.
Q: Despite not being able to take your first snap against the Crimson, do you feel that this experience has allowed you to see what it’s like to prepare mentally for a game?
A: Yes and no, because every week I have to be mentally and physically prepared to take the field God forbid something does happen to Patrick Witt, but the added dynamic of potentially starting made it a good learning experience.
Q: Have you and Patrick interacted at all through this process for him? If so what have you guys talked about?
A: We actually haven’t been talking all that much. I know he was dealing with a lot of questions from the media, from people on campus, and from friends back home, so I didn’t want to add any more pressure on him. That said, Patrick and I have a great working relationship as teammates.
Q: As a Yale football player, fans don’t usually come out in big numbers to games. Tell me what the attendance at a game like this means to the team.
A: While it’s definitely discouraging not to see fans come out to all of our games, we love playing in front of big crowds. The game last year in Cambridge met each and every one of my expectations since I had heard so much build up about the game, and I only expect it to be the same if not better this year at the Yale Bowl.
Q: How do you feel about the team heading into next season as you will most likely take the reigns as starting quarterback?
Well this season I sort of knew that Patrick was the guy heading in, but since that won’t be the case next year, I’ll be putting in a lot more hours into watching film to better understand how our offensive scheme works and to do a better job of identifying defenses.