Irishman thrilled by start to NFL career after Green Bay Packers debut

“It was our off day and I had just finished working out when I got the text. I was like, ‘No way?’ Then, like an hour later, everybody started congratulating me because they had posted the roster on the website or whatever.”

Dan Whelan is recalling the moment he learned he would be the starting punter for NFL team the Green Bay Packers this year – and reflecting on his regular-season debut in last Sunday’s impressive 38-20 win at the Chicago Bears.

Originally from Enniskerry in Co Wicklow before moving as a teenager to California, the 24-year-old punter thus became the first Irish-born player in the league since Neil O’Donoghue was kicking for the St Louis Cardinals back in 1985.

To the surprise of some pundits, Whelan has supplanted nine-year veteran Pat O’Donnell for the punter position at Green Bay.

The pair had worked closely together in pre-season – and parted on very good terms.

“He actually left a pretty nice note in my locker,” says Whelan. “So then I texted him. We had a pretty good relationship so I’ll definitely be staying in contact.”

Whelan slept soundly before debut

Whelan’s NFL debut went as well as he could have dared to hope – even the night before the game when, he claims, he slept very soundly.

“Phenomenal,” he laughs. “I had a bath – and that was the first bath I’ve had since… well probably back when I was in Ireland!

“That helped me sleep really well. I didn’t even know there was going to be a bath that would fit me [Whelan is 6ft 5in] but it took me, so I went for it.”

Part of the pre-match spectacle these days are shots of the player arrivals at the stadium, with the more fashion conscious and flamboyant strutting to the locker room in their finest matchday livery. Whelan isn’t sure he is going to fall into that bracket.

“I feel like sometimes that I am,” he reflects with a grin. “And then sometimes I’ll be like naaaaa… just put on a T-shirt and shorts. And this time? It was just the T-shirt and shorts.

“And the atmosphere, I soaked it all in…


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