Although he’s a quiet and unassuming individual by nature, Donte Whitner has a quiet confidence to him because of the way he prepares himself, whether it be for a Saturday afternoon in Ohio Stadium in the fall or deciding on whether or not to forgo his senior year of eligibility at Ohio State and enter the NFL draft.
And, after studying the latter issue thoroughly, Whitner confidently made his decision.
"The decision wasn’t easy. I had to weigh both sides of the issue," Whitner said. "I just made the decision because I felt like I was ready, I had a good junior season, and I felt like I could go high in this year’s draft. So that’s why I came out."
Whitner left Glenville a semester early to enter Ohio State and jump-start his collegiate future and now, three years later, he’s leaving Ohio State an entire season early to get a jump on his NFL career. Avoiding a major injury and securing his financial future are just a couple of obvious benefits of him making that declaration now. But his confidence in himself made him come to the conclusion that now was the right time for him to become a professional.
"The determining factor was being able to go high in this year’s draft and just feeling good about my decision," Whitner said. "I just want to go into the draft and test good and go high. I love Ohio State, I love the coaches there and I love the players there, but I just felt like it was time for me to move on."
Becoming a team captain and playing for a national championship were just two things that Whitner thought a lot about before making his final decision.
"That was tough. Being able to come back and be a captain. Being able to lead the defense, a young defense. Being able to be up for some of those post-season awards and things like that. It was tough leaving those things," Whitner said. "But in the end I think that I made the best decision for me and my family."
OSU coach Jim Tressel played a helpful role in Whitner’s difficult decision.
"He was a consultant. He really got a lot of information for me and helped me out a lot," Whitner said. "He didn’t really try to reel me back in, he just got me a lot of information and helped me make a decision for me."
The memorable victories piled up quickly for Whitner in his three years at Ohio State.
"Obviously the ‘04 win against Michigan was real big," he said. "The Fiesta Bowl in my freshman year against Kansas State and this year against Notre Dame, and even going to the Alamo Bowl and beating Oklahoma State were all big games. Every Michigan game and every Bowl game were big games. I’m just glad that I got to go 2-1 against Michigan and 3-0 in bowl games, so I feel good about that."
Individually, his big play against Miami (Ohio) was just one of the many highlights that Whitner has experienced on the field during his abbreviated career as a Buckeye.
"I would say that the interception (return for a touchdown) against Miami of Ohio after picking up the (roughing the kicker) penalty is the one that stands out the most," he said.
And off of the field, Whitner has instantly become a role model for any young person who’s faced with adversity at almost every turn, if he wasn’t quite one already. He’s living proof that the strong can survive and even prosper no matter how rough they’ve had it.
"I’m most proud of being able to come from Glenville and give the guys at Glenville the courage they need to go on to college and even go on the pros," Whitner said. "Just being able to come back and talk to a lot of the guys that are trying to make it to the place where I’ve been and the place where I’m going is really important."
But until he actually gets to that place, there obviously are no guarantees in his future, Whitner has a game plan in place and he plans to attack it and execute it like he would any defensive game plan at Ohio State.
"The game plan is to go into the draft, run good, test good and go high in the draft," Whitner said. "I just want to start my career off the right way. I’m really not expecting anything bad to happen. I know that I’m going to test good and my film speaks for itself, so I’m looking to go high in this year’s draft."
All of the reports and the feedback that Whitner has received about his draft status have been very encouraging.
"I’m very confident now," he said. "From what they tell my agent and the reports that I get back and the things that I’ve been hearing, I’m very confident."
He’s living a dream right now. A dream that he has created from having a solid work ethic and a strong sense of belief and confidence in himself.
"I’ve been waiting on this day for so long but it seemed like it was taking so long to come," Whitner said. "I’m just very happy right now and very grateful that I have this opportunity and I’m just going to cherish it and make the best of it."
And to the fans at Ohio State who are disappointed that Whitner deciding to leave a year early?
"To those fans, I want to say that I love Ohio State and I love the fans at Ohio State, and I can understand why they might be mad," he said. "But I just had to make a decision that was best for me and I wish Ohio State the best of luck this season, the coaches, the players and the fans. I will miss it no question."
Whitner said he’s a fan of the Cleveland Browns but he has no preference as to what team calls his name on draft day.
"I just want to go to any team that has an attacking style of defense," he said. "That’s what I like."
He just feels very blessed to be in the situation that he’s in right now.
"My family has never been through anything like this and it’s great," Whitner said. "I’m very blessed at this point and I’m very grateful."
If he can do it, then Whitner believes that anyone coming from Glenville with similar ability can do it as well. Whitner just might be the beginning of the Glenville pipeline to the NFL.
"It just takes a lot of film study, a lot of focus and a lot of determination and drive," he said. "You have to make it happen."
And Whitner still intends to make it happen in the classroom as well.
"I’m going back in the spring and I have seven classes left," he said. "I’m going to take three or four classes in the spring and I’ll have three or four classes left. My mom wants me to graduate and that’s a goal of mine."
And he has also has an important goal that he hopes to accomplish some day as player at the next level.
"I want to win a Super Bowl," he said.