Mandy Smith of Campus Sports recently interviewed Robert Lectress Whitfield, III commonly known as Bob Whitfield, former American football offensive tackle in the National Football League. Whitfield started as a true freshman at Stanford and began his NFL career after being drafted in the first round (eighth overall) of the 1992 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He played for the Atlanta Falcons for thirteen consecutive seasons before stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Giants.
Campus Sports: Stanford ended the 2013-2014 season overall 11-3 and no. 6 in the BCS Standings, what was your reaction to their season overall?
Bob: After building a newfound respect in not only the PAC-12 conference but in the BCS standings, I think there is a strong expectation that Stanford should be challenging for a National Championship. The strength at quarterback and the residue that Andrew Luck has left on the school, 11-3 almost isn’t good enough for the Cardinal. They would have to do better. To have that level of demand is necessary for that program to stay in top 10 in the country.
Campus Sports: What are your thoughts on the new College Football Playoff System? The format is simple: The best 4 teams going head 2 head.
Bob: Well damn, that’s a short playoff! You’re ranking 25 teams so I would figure you would try and go to a bigger bracket, maybe 32 or something. They never want to change things so grand so okay we’ll give you a 4 playoff scheme. I think in the lower divisions at least do 16, so, I don’t know, it’s just like an appetizer.
Campus Sports: So you favor the BCS?
Bob: No, I think they should go to a wider playoff, just a wider playoff branch. You have the NCAA basketball tournament with 64 teams. You don’t need that many. The NFL has 32 teams and they allow 8 to go in the playoffs. I mean you have one hundred and something teams, I don’t know.
Campus Sports: No, but 4 teams I feel is not enough for how many college teams there are. They could go wider I do agree with that.
Bob: It’s a step in the right direction. That’s how the NCAA does it. It takes them like 15 steps and they have bigger fish to fry now that these kids want money. Hell I wanted money when I was in college.
Campus Sports: It is a big money maker, the whole BCS and the College Football System.
Bob: The whole idea is. I feel like it’s a value exchange. Okay we are giving you an education, room and board, and you’re coming out here playing football. So then the kids say, well damn, look how much money you make on the football. Maybe if you give us more than room and board, a little change in our pocket, a little stipend. Maybe there will be an equal stipend paid whatever whatever, or additional perks paid when you go to a bowl game, maybe kids get plane tickets to use or plane vouchers. Because I think the biggest thing is having just certain things to help them out. Okay they can’t work while they’re on scholarship, so this is how they work. You go to a bowl game you get an extra dollar.
Campus Sports: Being a first round draft pick yourself, what advice can you give these young men that just entered the league?
Bob: Train hard, the biggest thing, train hard and almost an extension of how you maintain and behave in college. You’re going to add additional professionalism that making mistakes will cost you. So you know try to be pristine in your behavior and training regimen so that you can make the money last long term. They want to pay you for years on years and you have a high value, a high commodity value in this business.
Campus Sports: What are your thoughts on Michael Sam and the criticism he faced for being openly gay in the NFL?
Bob: It’s gonna be a tough choice for a college player transitioning to his first professional sporting job to stand by what he believes in, to what would be a controversial topic and say okay you know what okay I’m gonna come out. And also, I would have really preferred it stay in the closet because now the sport is gonna get criticized and scrutinized on the level of is it discrimination? To the point of the don’t ask don’t tell policy may have been a more effective work place environment for that sport.
Campus Sports: Do you think he will face a lot of adversity from the players that he is playing against? Because I know it can get harsh in the locker room, it can get harsh out on the field.
Bob: I think he’s gonna get it from all around. I think its gonna come from the point of was he discriminated against if he doesn’t make the team? Or he’ll get it from does his appearance on the team bring a different characterization of what the players are? Who they are? To does being his friend get you ostracized by other teammates? You might get an inkling of all that, because all these players and team executives come from different backgrounds and different beliefs, so they might not condone his relationship or understand it at all so you’re gonna get a smattering of all that and to me I’d prefer let that not be the attention getter. What if he just played football and no one knew who he wanted to kiss at night?
Campus Sports: Do you think Ray Rice’s suspension was too light given the severity of what happened and what the video coverage portrayed?
Bob: Well I think since there’s no standard to what the suspension should be, it’s at the commissioner’s discretion to what length of time he wants to give out. I feel like the suspension was just because the fate was put in the commissioner’s hands to say if its gonna be two weeks, six weeks, a whole year. I think since the incident, maybe some of the things that have transpired since the incident have played into that decision. Meaning the commissioner had an opportunity to talk with Ray and his wife, so maybe they’re going to seek counseling that has also played into the fact that I can make it to two weeks or two games. But… you have to also consider too that now that she’s a wife, why would she want that money going to charity? She was probably like “commissioner no suspension, I hit him too, I cussed him out too, I spit on him, I told him he ain’t the kids daddy.” Now that he says he’s going to marry you, now she’s like well damn he needs to go back to work!
Campus Sports: In your NFL career, who was the toughest defensive lineman you’ve faced?
Bob: All of em! I figured if they’re in that business they’re all tough in some way, form or fashion. They’re all tough.
Campus Sports: Who do you think had the best collegiate career out of these Heisman winning quarterbacks? Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, RGIII, or Tim Tebow?
Bob: Hmmmm…. That’s such a tickling question because certain circumstances Cam Newton came from transferring schools to winning National Championship. To Johnny Manziel being Johnny quarterback, whatever they call him, Johnny Football. To Robert Griffin from the school that wasn’t on TV but he was lighting up the scoreboard and people getting a whiff of him like, oh this guy is great. Tim Tebow though had all the Christians behind him. So I wont’ get struck down, I’m rollin with with Tim. Hahahaha……I’m rollin with Tim Tebow.
Campus Sports: Were you surprised at Johnny Manziel’s position in the NFL draft, in his position that he was picked?
Bob: No. Not in the least bit. Because I liken him (Johnny Manziel) to Michael Vick in some regards, an athletic talent at quarterback you throw the ball a lot of yards, can run with his feet, creative, but also…. he is a little small. A little smaller in size so I think for what you had out there in teams you know you comparing him to a Cam Newton that can run the ball downfield who can do stuff with his arm, but Cam Newton is HUGE.
Campus Sports: A big guy, but Johnny is quick on his feet
Bob: Being that quick on your feet from a quarterback position in some teams they don’t feel they need that much quickness from my quarterback. He might be quick but hey I may need you to stand up in the pocket and throw it 70 yards down the field. And Michael Vick found that out. That a lot of the coordinators wanted him to be a pocket quarterback and he had a big arm, so it’s like hey, if we can keep him in the pocket with that big arm then he could rifle down the field. Hey we would much rather have that than risking him running up and down the field and getting hit by these 250 llb guys.
Campus Sports: Do you think he will have a hard transition from playing college football to professional football with the Browns?
Bob: No. I feel like he’s good enough talent that he will adapt to what they need him to adapt to. Maybe somethings he did in college he would have been more successful if they would have carried over into the pros. But I feel like he’s a strong enough athlete that can adapt his play style to whatever a team may need him to do.
Campus Sports: And do you think some teams were hesitant to draft him because of his image and what he’s been publicized doing out in the press?
Bob: Ahh.. I think it was based on needs. I think that other quarterbacks that got drafted before him was a different style of quarterback that fit to the style of scheme that they ran and I think from a marketing standpoint, when you have a Cleveland team that has a quarterback that has some decent experience….you know to bringing a young upstart that makes him battle for the job…. That’s gonna bring a level of marketing publicity to you. Johnny Manziel was a safe pick even if he was not that needed.
Campus Sports: What are your reactions on the video that has gone viral of Matthews and Biermann fighting at camp? Is that typical for players to fight at camp and get ‘head 2 head’ like that?
Bob: Well, 1, I couldn’t see the video because I tried to watch it online, but my service provider was bootleg. It was taking so long I had the little spinning wheel, so I was like, it much have been short fight hahahaha. But here’s the thing, fighting at camp happens. But……there’s……. to me a fight that’s worth it in camp and then there’s a fight that you shouldn’t be fighting and coaches take disciplinary actions. Like if we’re going head 2 head and you do a violation(what would be a rules violation) maybe you hit me under the chin with your fist and intentionally leave it under my chin, then that’s fight worthy. You know, maybe you took a low blow shot where you try to come up under with a rip and catch me in the lower area. That might be fight worthy. And usually stuff that if someone does something that’s a foul or would be considered a foul and they come back and meet me after they play and say “hey man I’m sorry for having my had in your face.” That might diffuse it, but usually you don’t get that instance like you have your hand in my face, that is foul, you’re taking liberties, now I have to whoop on you. So, fights will happen.
Campus Sports: In your rookie season with the Atlanta Falcons, what was your greatest memory?
Bob: That first first paycheck. Hahaha. Best one yet. After that, it was all downhill from there like Ahhh damn! Well, I think it is because you’re playing a game that you love growing up, learning in college, you got a degree, and now they’re paying you a check, and this is the epitome. Yeah you are reaping the benefits. So, then its back to real life, real issues, and performing to keep a check, but, that first one is like a pat on the back, like you did good kid.