Checking In with Charlie

CUTigers recently caught up with former Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to get his thoughts on his first year with the San Diego Chargers.

Yes, it actually has been a year since Charlie Whitehurst was last under center for Clemson. But the former signal caller for the Tigers now spends his days getting acclimated to playing in the NFL, where he is learning as much as he can about a new offense from fellow ex-ACCer Philip Rivers, who is listed just above him on the depth chart for the San Diego Chargers.

Recently, CUTigers talked with Charlie about his first season in the NFL for an upcoming issue of CUTigers The Magazine.

Here is part of that conversation:

Well, it's been over a year since you left Clemson, how do you look back on that experience?
Whitehurst: I ended up going there and had a pretty successful career. I did better than I thought I would do. When I showed up there, I didn't know what to expect. It went better than I thought. It (playing for Coach Bowden) was a pretty good experience. It gave me the opportunity to play and that was huge for me. I was able to play as a freshman and play all four years. I was definitely happy about that.

What did it mean for you to finish your career a perfect 4-0 against South Carolina?
Whitehurst: We were able to beat South Carolina four times. If anything I did at Clemson means anything that does. That means a lot. It was big. No quarterback has ever beaten them four times. It was definitely huge. Coming in from out-of-state, I really didn't have any idea what the rivalry was all about. I was a redshirt freshman in my fifth start and played in it and we came back at home to win it in the fourth quarter. That was when I felt like I had earned my stripes. I was the starter and went out and ran with it. It's awesome. Looking back on it, we hate those guys and they hate us. I have some respect for their players, but you want to go into their stadium and whip them. We did that twice and it was a lot of fun.

Charlie, you also had two big wins against Florida State. What are your thoughts on those victories?
Whitehurst: We had some success against them. They're not what they used to be but when we beat them in 2003, they were ranked No. 3 in the country and we beat them at home. The speed of the game (against FSU) is higher because it's almost like playing an NFL defense except they are basic. They're simple and show you what you're going to play. Our (offensive) coordinator at the time, Mike O'Cain, came up with a plan to beat them. It was simple to execute and we did and beat them. We beat them my senior year also. We had some pretty good luck against Florida State."

"We were able to beat South Carolina four times," Whitehurst said. "If anything I did at Clemson means anything that does. That means a lot. It was big. No quarterback has ever beaten them four times."
In your CU debut in 2002, you set a school record with 420 yards passing against Duke. Did you have any idea you were getting close to that mark during the game?
Whitehurst: It's funny because after that game was over, I had no idea how good it (my performance) was statistically. I was just so relieved that we didn't lose to Duke. I wasn't excited about the win at all. We almost lost to them at their place and had to come back in the fourth quarter to win. When the SID told me I had thrown for 420 yards, I told him that I had never even thrown for 300 before. It snuck up on me. Looking back and watching myself play as a 20-year-old, I can't believe how good I was. It's almost easier when you're not sure how big it is.

What about that huge comeback win over Miami in the Orange Bowl back in 2004?
Whitehurst: They hadn't lost much at their place. We go in there and it was pouring down rain. It stopped right after kickoff. They had just come off a loss. I remember Coach Bowden's pregame speech was about them being mad having just lost a game. He told us that after two minutes, they were going to look up and would know they would be in a fight. It was 14-0 (Miami) with two minutes gone. They scored two pretty quick ones. We were in a hole and were playing comeback the whole game. But we were able to come back in the fourth quarter and won it in overtime. The locker room after that game was probably the most fun I've had after a football game. It was awesome.

Changing subjects to the NFL Draft, did you go about where you thought and was San Diego even on your radar before draft day?
Whitehurst: It always is a crapshoot. You have some ideas about where you might go. San Diego wasn't even on my list of places where I thought I might go. I hadn't even talked to them between the combine and the draft. I thought I would go in the second or third rounds. When that pick came up and I got that call, I was very excited.

What has been the biggest adjustment for you going from being a starter at Clemson to now being the backup in San Diego?
Whitehurst: Learning a new offense. You have to execute on the field. You have new receivers you're throwing to. You have to learn new plays and new terminology. There's a comfort level that comes with playing a lot in a certain offense and I haven't played a lot in this offense. I think once I do a little bit, I will become more confident and more comfortable with it. I would like to learn as much as I can. By next season and training camp, I want to have grasped it well enough like I was the starter and prepare like I was the starter and go from there. I want to improve as much as I can this year and show it on the field next year.

You got your degree in only three-and-a-half years. What is the story with that?
Whitehurst: My degree is in Marketing and I didn't go to graduate school because I knew I wouldn't finish in one year. I took some classes to supplement my degree and just focused on football. It was good. There was a chance I might leave early after my junior year. If I did, I wanted to have that (my degree) done and not have to worry about coming back to school. I finished up and was able to come back my fifth year and pretty much just play football.

How much have you been able to take in from playing behind a guy like Philip Rivers?
Whitehurst: This is the second wave of questions I've gotten like that. In college, I had been playing a few years and he had been playing a few years. Back then, he never made a bad play and always had a plan for where to go with the football. That's something I've taken even more from him now. You had better do that in the NFL. You have to have a plan for what to do with the ball for every situation. If you have to think about it, it's too late and you're going to make a bad play.

CUTigers.com Top Stories