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Monday, November 05, 2007

Whitner proves skeptics wrong



Former OSU safety worthy of Bills' trust on draft day


November 3, 2007

BY BILL RABINOWITZ

CINCINNATI -- The Buffalo Bills surprised a lot of people when they selected Donte Whitner with the eighth pick in the 2006 draft.

The Ohio State safety had been considered a mid-first-round pick, at best, but the Bills were intent on rebuilding their defense and projected Whitner to be a cornerstone.

They have not been disappointed. He is third on the team in tackles with 53. He is the only Bills player to have played on all 465 defensive snaps.

"He's just a tremendous player to coach," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "He loves to play the game. He's a fierce competitor. He is a high-character guy. He fits our team very well and seems to be getting better every game."

Although others questioned Buffalo's pick, Whitner never did. In fact, he believed he should have been the first safety taken, ahead of Texas' Michael Huff, who went one pick ahead of him.

"I just felt I was the best at my position," Whitner said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Confidence is not an issue with Whitner.

"I've always had confidence in myself, no matter what's going on around me," he said. "I feel I can run and tackle and hit and intercept balls as well as anybody else can. I feel I can help my teammates out around me and help with verbal communication and with physical skills.

"I felt I was worthy of going where I did. Now I'm still working on proving to everyone around me and in the league that I was worthy of going that high, and I think I've gotten some good feedback."

Whitner said he has lined up in every spot on defense except the line. He has the speed to help cornerbacks and the run-stuffing skills and desire to line up in the box.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer described Whitner as a Bob Sanders-type player. Sanders is a Pro Bowl safety with Indianapolis.

"He can play the ball well in the air, and he can come up and smack people," Palmer said. "Just a very good player."

Whitner is not content to make his mark solely on the field. He has become active in community service. One of five children raised by a single mother, Whitner has sponsored a contest in which four Buffalo single mothers will win an all-the-works appointment at a local spa. He recently did the same thing in Cleveland, his hometown.

"I remember coming home and my mom was dead tired, and she was still cooking and getting us ready for school and all that," Whitner said. "I just want to give back to those moms who do so much for their kids."

He said he got 400 applications in Cleveland and expects as many in Buffalo
"The moms with the best stories who tell how much they did for their kids and how much they love their kids will win," he said. "If I can't choose just four, I'll up the number."

While he is focused on his job with the Bills, Whitner is keeping an eye on the Buckeyes. He said he's already banking on an undefeated season.

"I'm going to buy my national championship tickets now," he said. "Hotel rooms, airfare, everything. Because we're going. That's how much confidence I have in the Buckeyes."

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