James Francis Whalen, Jr. (May 20, 1943 – December 18, 2012) was a professional American football tight end.
Whalen was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He played in the American Football League for the Boston Patriots, and then in the National Football League for the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles. Whalen played college football at Boston College and was selected in the third round of the 1965 AFL Draft. He was also drafted in the fourth round of the 1965 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings.
Jim Whalen is the only football player to have 3 TD receptions in a college game played at Boston College Alumni Stadium and have 3 TD receptions in a professional football game played at Boston College Alumni Stadium. Jim caught 3 TD passes for the Boston Patriots in their 41-10 rout of the Miami Dolphins at BC on October 15, 1967. The Boston Red Sox were playing in the 1967 World Series and the Patriots had to play at Boston College for this game. Earlier in 1962 as a sophomore at Boston College, Whalen hauled in three touchdown receptions in a victory against Boston University.
James Francis "Jim" Whalen Jr. grew up in Cambridge, MA residing on Plymouth Street, the son of James Francis "Brud" Whalen and Helen Whalen, née Zukowski. He has one sister Rosemary.(2)(3)(4)(5).
The younger Whalen was a three-sport star at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Cambridge, MA, a school that also produced a number of other top athletes including MLB Hall-of-Fame pitcher and 342 game winner Tim Keefe, MLB player Eddie Waitkus on whom the movie The Natural was loosely based and Olympic high jumper John Thomas. Whalen, who starred in football, baseball and ice hockey, was subsequently inducted into the Cambridge Rindge and Latin Athletic Hall of Fame.(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)
One of the finest pass catchers and all-around athletes to graduate from Boston College. At the time of his graduation after the 1964 season, Whalen was the top pass receiver in Boston College history with 73 career receptions, surpassing the total of 70 accumulated by Art Graham,(7)(8) who like Whalen a few years later, would go on to a stellar career with the Boston Patriots.(1) In addition to being one of the top ends in the country, Whalen was called upon to also punt his senior season.(9) During his tenure at BC, Whalen also lettered in baseball and ice hockey in addition to football.(4)(5)(7) The 1963, 1964 and 1965 BC Eagles hockey teams won the Beanpot Tournament while the 1963 and 1965 teams each reached the national Frozen Four.
Like his dad who was elected into the Manhattan College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989,(10) so too the younger Whalen himself would be so honored by being elected into the Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1995.(7) [Note: James "Brud" Whalen was one of the preeminent multi-sport collegiate stars of his era captaining the Manhattan College baseball and football teams in its sports heyday at the national level. In one of his seasons on the gridiron he averaged 9.1 yards per carry rushing, 12.7 yards per pass reception, 45 yards per punt return and was among the leaders nationally in touchdowns scored].(10)(11)(18)
Started as a sophomore at Boston College recording 16 catches for 309 yards and a lofty 19.3 yards per reception.(7)(9) Was second on the team in touchdowns with six, trailing only Art Graham who scored seven.(7)(9) Boston College would finish with an 8-2 record including wins over Texas Tech, Vanderbilt and Houston.(7)(9)
Consensus First Team All-East selection as offensive end.(7)(12) Ranked first nationally in yards per catch (minimum of 25 catches) with an everage of 20.1.(13) His 523 receiving yards on 26 catches ranked eighth nationally,only 36 yards out of the fourth position.(13) In addition to leading BC in receiving yards, Whalen also led in receptions.(7)(9) Boston College finished with a 6-3 record including wins over Virginia and Vanderbilt.(9)
Repeated as consensus First Team All-East.(7) Joining Whalen at the offensive skill positions were Roger Staubach/Navy at QB, Milt Moran/UMass at end, and Jim Nance and Floyd Little, each of Syracuse, as backs.(14) After the conclusion of the 1964 season, Whalen was selected as a starter in both the East - West Shrine Game (held in San Francisco), as well as the Senior Bowl (Mobile, Alabama).(4)(5)(7)
Whalen recorded 31 catches and 398 receiving yards, leading the team in both categories.(7)(9) He was also one of three primary punters that season leading the squad with nearly 35 yards per kick.(9)
Boston College finished 6-3 including wins over #9 ranked Syracuse and Cincinnati which would finish 8-2 that season.(9) Against Air Force, Whalen's 4th down 30 yard touchdown reception on an Ed Foley pass snapped a 7-7 tie leading to a 13-7 win.(15) Later that season, Whalen's 15 yard catch in the closing moments resulted in a 10-8 victory in Holy Cross Coach Eddie Anderson's final game. At the time, Anderson's 201 wins (against 128 losses and 15 ties) ranked fourth behind only Pop Warner, Amos Stagg and Jess Neely.(16)
Unlike his dad who turned down offers from both professional football and Major League Baseball,(2)(10)(17)(18)(19) the younger Whalen decided to take his athletic talents to the professional level. Although being recruited by teams from the National Hockey League as well as from others in Major League Baseball, Whalen chose football and signed with the hometown Boston Patriots who had drafted him with the 23rd overall pick [note: The younger Whalen was also drafted by the Minnesota Vikings].(1)(2)(4)(5)
Recorded 22 catches and 381 receiving yards, each of which ranked eleventh among combined AFL + NFL tight ends.(1) On October 24, 1965, Whalen recorded his first professional 100 yard receiving game (109 yards) against the Oakland Raiders.(1) Patriots finish the season with a 4-8-2 record. (1)
Recorded 29 catches for 502 receiving yards ranking ninth among all tight ends in the combined AFL + NFL.(1) His four receiving touchdowns ranked first among AFL tight ends and fourth overall trailing only John Mackey, Jerry Smith and Pete Retzlaff.(1) On November 13, 1966, Whalen scored his first professional touchdown on a 42 yard pass reception from Babe Parilli in a 27-21 win over the Houston Oilers.(1) He would then proceed to score three more touchdowns over the next five games.(1)
The First Team All-Pro tight ends in 1966 were Fred Arbanas (22 catches, 305 yards and 4 touchdowns) and John Mackey (50, 829 and 9). (1)
Patriots finish 8-4-2.
Recorded 39 catches for 651 yards, each ranking seventh among combined AFL + NFL tight ends.(1) His five receiving touchdowns as a tight end ranked second in the AFL and fourth in the combined AFL + NFL.(1) Whalen's 651 receiving yards was tops among all Patriot receivers, ahead of the 606 recorded by WR Art Graham and 502 by RB Larry Garron, and his five receiving touchdowns also topped the squad.(1)
On October 15, 1967, Whalen tied the Patriots record of three touchdowns in a single game during a 41-10 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins.(1) The three receiving touchdowns while subsequently surpassed by WR Randy Moss on November 18, 2007 against Buffalo, is through the 2012 season still a Patriots record for tight ends.(1)
The First Team All-Pro tight ends were Billy Cannon (32, 629 and 10) and John Mackey (55, 686 and 3). (1)
Patriots finish 3-10-1.
Recorded 47 catches and seven touchdowns as a tight end, each leading the AFL and ranking second among all AFL + NFL tight ends [Note: Jackie Smith led the NFL with 49 receptions].(1) Whalen also piled up 718 receiving yards ranking second among AFL tight ends and fourth across the combined AFL + NFL.(1) No other Patriot tallied more than 19 receptions or 331 yards receiving.(1)
Whalen's 87 yard pass reception on a Tom Sherman pass (October 27, 1968) against the Super Bowl-bound (and winning) New York Jets was at the time the longest play from scrimmage in Patriots history.(1) Through the 2012 season it still remains as the longest reception by a tight end in Patriots history, and also one of the longest by a tight end in professional football history.(1)
On September 22, 1968 the Boston Patriots and New York Jets played the first professional football ever held in the state of Alabama. (1) The Patriots at the time did not have a permanent home stadium and with a possible eye to relocation, played a "home game" at Legion Field in Birmingham, in part to capitalize on the popularity of Jets quarterback Joe Namath who played his college football at the University of Alabama. The Jets would go on to defeat the Patriots 47-31, despite Whalen's game high 6 receptions (George Sauer led the Jets with 5 catches).(1)
After a 20-17 victory against the Denver Broncos (September 29, 1968) in which Whalen caught four balls including one for a touchdown, he was awarded a game ball by his teammates.(1)(20) Ironically two years later, Whalen would be playing for the Broncos.(1)
Had a career game high eight receptions against the Oakland Raiders on October 6, 1968.(1) Also during the season, Whalen would have two multiple touchdown games in a pair of wins against the Buffalo Bills (October 20, 1968 with Mike Taliaferro at QB) and the Cincinnati Bengals (December 1, 1968 with Tom Sherman at QB).(1)
It would be over 25 years until another Patriot tight end, Ben Coates, would exceed both Whalen's receptions per scheduled game and receiving yardage per scheduled game when the former combined with QB Drew Bledsoe in 1994 to set a new NFL record for tight ends.(1) Additionally during the 1968 season, Whalen led the Patriots in both touchdowns (7) and total yards from scrimmage (718).(1) This was the first of only two seasons in Patriots history through 2012 that a tight end would lead the club in yards from scrimmage—the second coming in 1994 during Ben Coates record-setting season.(1)
Whalen is named Patriots team MVP by the 1776 Booster's Club.(21)
For his accomplishments in 1968, Whalen would be accorded First Team All-Pro, marking the first time that any Patriots receiver, tight end or otherwise, would be selected First Team All-Pro.(1) The other All-Pro tight end that season was John Mackey (45, 644 and 5). (1)
Patriots finish 4-10.
In a season during which he was battling influenza, Whalen recorded 16 receptions for 235 yards and a touchdown in a year in which no Patriot (running backs included) caught more than 29 balls.(1)(24) On September 28, 1969 in a loss against the Oakland Raiders, Whalen scores his last touchdown as a Patriot.(1) After the season, Whalen was traded to the Denver Broncos for another tight end, Tom Beer, who would subsequently write a book entitled Sunday's Fools about his days in football.
Patriots finish 4-10.
In his first season as a Denver Bronco, Whalen records 36 receptions for 503 yards and three touchdowns ranking in the top ten in each category across all NFL tight ends.(1) In a 24-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on October 18, 1970, Whalen scores his first touchdown as a Denver Bronco on an 8 yard pass from QB Pete Liske.(1) A month later on November 22, 1970, Whalen scores his last NFL touchdown during a 31-6 win over the New Orleans Saints.(1)
The First Team All-Pro tight end is Charlie Sanders who records 40 catches, 544 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. Placing second in the All-Pro voting for tight ends that season is Bob Trumpy (29, 480 and 2). (1)
As a Denver Bronco, Whalen pulls in a game-high 4 passes for 53 yards in a loss to the Green Bay Packers followed by 3 more catches and a game-high 71 yards from scrimmage the next week in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.(1) He soon thereafter moves in-season to the Philadelphia Eagles for whom he hauls in a 41 yard pass against the Washington Redskins before retiring.(1)
Despite playing his entire career during the shorter 14-game season and largely for teams that ranked at or near the bottom in passing,(1) Whalen's accomplishments still compare favorably in today's offense-oriented game. He is one of only four Patriot tight ends (Russ Francis, Ben Coates and Rob Gronkowski) to string together three consecutive seasons of 500+ yards receiving (he had another with the Denver Broncos),(1) and one of only three (Coates, Gronkowski) to record 650+ yards in back-to-back seasons.(1) Additionally, Whalen's Patriot career yards per reception average of 16.3 ranks first among all Patriot tight ends (1)(22) and sixth all-time among all Patriot receivers, wide outs included (minimum of 150 career receptions).(1)(22) His career average of 16.0 per catch (inclusive of his time with the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles) as a tight end is outstanding and ranks in the top ten in the history of professional football (minimum of 150 receptions).(1) Five of Whalen's 20 career touchdowns were for 40 or more yards.(1) Whalen through 2013 still also holds Patriots tight end records for longest reception (87 yards), longest touchdown reception (87 yards) and most touchdown receptions in a single game (3). (1)
Furthermore, Whalen protected the ball exceptionally well, fumbling just twice in his career.(1) Through the end of the 2010 season, only one tight end in history (Andrew Glover) had fewer career fumbles than Whalen while catching as many passes.(1)
Had a career game high of 134 yards receiving (against the Miami Dolphins in 1967),(1) and is one of only five Patriot tight ends (Coates, Hasselbeck, Gronkowski and Hernandez) to record at least four career 100 yard receiving games.(1)
Whalen's accomplishments also compare favorably to those of his peers during his time in professional football. The All AFL Hall-Of-Fame First Team All-1960's Team tight end is Fred Arbanas. Catching passes from Hall-Of-Fame quarterback Len Dawson, Arbanas caught 198 balls for 3,101 yards, a career 15.7 yards per catch average, 34 touchdowns while fumbling 4 times in 118 games. (1) Whalen's career line is 197 catches for 3,155 yards, a career 16.0 yards per catch average, 20 touchdowns while fumbling twice in 89 games. (1). During his career, Whalen caught touchdown passes from Babe Parilli, Don Trull, Mike Taliferro, Tom Sherman and Pete Liske. (1) He also lined up with Steve Tensi, Alan Pastrana, Steve Ramsey and Don Horn in the quarterback position. (1)
Elected onto the Patriots 1960's All-Decade Team.(3)(23)
(1): www.pro-football-reference.com (see game logs)
(2): Family sources
(3): Various obituaries including: The Boston Globe, December 2012, page B11
(4): Various obituaries including: http://www.wickedlocal.com/gloucester/newsnow/x1665852163/in-memoriam-hands-speed-made-gloucester-resident-whalen-a-classic-Patriot#axzz2HjLNDHsx
(5): Various obituaries including: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/12/21/Jim-Whalen-tight-end-for-Boston-College-and-Boston-Patriots/mauu6ZFKOacGIpyQMSd4VN/story.html
(6): Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Cambridge, MA
(7): Boston College including at www.bceagles.com/genrel/whalen_jim00.html
(8): BC Alumni Magazine, Volume XXXI, No. 2, November 1968
(10): Manhattan College, NY/"The official athletic site of Manhattan College" (and also: www.gojaspers.com/viewarticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=12500)
(11): The Titusville (PA) Herald, November 11, 1935
(12): Schenectady Gazette, November 29, 1963
(13): USA Today College Football Encyclopedia, 1953–present
(14): Gettysburg Times, November 30, 1964
(15): Reading Eagle, October 25, 1964
(16): Sports Illustrated, December 7, 1964
(17): The Portsmouth Herald, June 8, 1939
(18): The Boston Globe, July 22, 1989
(19): The Burlington (NC) Daily Times-News, October 8, 1936
(20): The Boston Globe, September 30, 1968
(21): Various including: http://archive.Patriots.com/alumni/index.cfm?ac=alumnibiosdetail&bio=4512
(22): New England Patriots including at: www.Patriots.com
(23): The Boston Globe, March 31, 2009
(24): Associated Press article appearing in multiple newspapers including the Panama City News-Herald, Panama City, Florida, April 15, 1970
By Dean Hanley
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