“It was our off day and I had simply completed figuring out once I received the textual content. I used to be like, ‘No means?’ Then, like an hour later, everyone began congratulating me as a result of they’d posted the roster on the web site or no matter.”
Dan Whelan is recalling the second he discovered he could be the beginning punter for NFL crew the Inexperienced Bay Packers this yr – and reflecting on his regular-season debut in final Sunday’s spectacular 38-20 win on the Chicago Bears.
Initially from Enniskerry in Co Wicklow earlier than transferring as a young person to California, the 24-year-old punter thus grew to become the primary Irish-born participant within the league since Neil O’Donoghue was kicking for the St Louis Cardinals again in 1985.
To the shock of some pundits, Whelan has supplanted nine-year veteran Pat O’Donnell for the punter place at Inexperienced Bay.
The pair had labored carefully collectively in pre-season – and parted on superb phrases.
“He really left a fairly good word in my locker,” says Whelan. “So then I texted him. We had a fairly good relationship so I am going to positively be staying in touch.”
Whelan slept soundly earlier than debut
Whelan’s NFL debut went in addition to he may have dared to hope – even the evening earlier than the sport when, he claims, he slept very soundly.
“Phenomenal,” he laughs. “I had a shower – and that was the primary bathtub I’ve had since… nicely in all probability again once I was in Eire!
“That helped me sleep very well. I did not even know there was going to be a shower that will match me [Whelan is 6ft 5in] nevertheless it took me, so I went for it.”
A part of the pre-match spectacle nowadays are pictures of the participant arrivals on the stadium, with the extra style aware and flamboyant strutting to the locker room of their most interesting matchday livery. Whelan is not certain he’s going to fall into that bracket.
“I really feel like typically that I’m,” he displays with a smile. “After which typically I will be like naaaaa… simply placed on a T-shirt and shorts. And this time? It was simply the T-shirt and shorts.
“And the environment, I soaked all of it in in the course of the pre-game. It was much like all the opposite video games I’ve ever performed in actually – however simply with perhaps 50,000 extra individuals.”
Whelan would go on to play his half within the Packers’ victory.
He had 5 punts within the sport, together with a monster 68-yarder, from the Inexperienced Bay 32 to the Chicago finish zone.
Whelan additionally has the position of holder for Packers kicker Anders Carlson, who was excellent on the day, together with kicking a 52-yard discipline purpose. Carlson, the youthful brother of Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson, can also be in his rookie NFL season.
“We’ve got each simply been going by means of every day collectively, ?” says Whelan. “I’ve really began to like holding – I did not used to however now I in all probability maintain greater than I punt. We get factors for the crew in order that’s a very powerful half.
“As for the punting, I’m simply doing my job so if I can do my greatest, I am going to put the defence in fairly good discipline place.
“I really feel like once I first received right here, I used to be attempting too onerous. I used to be simply considering an excessive amount of, like I used to be within the huge league now. However it’s the identical job in hand. You have to simply concentrate on the right here and now and nothing else issues.”
Wicklow man ‘grateful’ for assist from residence
The 38-20 victory on the Bears was one thing of a press release by Inexperienced Bay, now within the post-Aaron Rodgers period. Justin Love, Rodgers’ successor at quarterback, threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns in a complete victory.
“Everyone was thrilled, however not shocked – we’re a fairly good crew,” says Whelan concerning the temper within the Packers locker room after the win.
“We’re all capable of play soccer right here. It positively gave our crew lots of confidence and self-belief. It is now about progress every week.”
The Packers transfer on to a different highway sport on the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday, earlier than Whelan makes his residence debut on the legendary Lambeau Area in Week Three in opposition to the New Orleans Saints – the crew who waived him simply over a yr in the past.
After the uncertainty of this summer season, residing out of a suitcase whereas attempting to nail down a everlasting place on the crew roster, Whelan is now beginning to get settled in Wisconsin.
“I simply received an condo,” he says. “I’m stoked to be out of the resort after one thing like 9 months. However I’m nonetheless sleeping on a mattress on the ground to this point, as a result of I haven’t got a mattress body or something but.”
He has already overcome larger hurdles this summer season – and stays flattered by all of the curiosity from well-wishers throughout the Atlantic.
“Primarily based on articles and stuff that I am getting tagged in, I do really feel like there’s lots of assist on the market and so I’m fairly grateful for it,” he says.