On choosing Amherst
Whiting was a three-sport star at Mission Viejo High School in Southern California. He excelled at football, baseball and track, but initially thought he would play just football in college at an Ivy League school. However, Whiting began to reconsider. “I didn’t realize all along if I had gone to one of those schools I’d have to give up baseball or track,” he said. Then, when he discovered “schools like Amherst and Williams where you not only could play more than one sport but where it was encouraged,” Whiting changed his mind. Despite offers from football teams at Dartmouth College and Yale University, Whiting chose Amherst. And he doesn’t regret his decision. Playing Div. III sports has “just taught me such a great lesson about being committed to something you care about and something you really love,” said Whiting.
On the field prowess
Whiting played three sports for four years at Amherst, giving up late summer sloth to the football team, Interterm break to the track team and spring break to the baseball team-not to mention the practices and games while school was in session.
As a first-year defensive back on the football team, Whiting didn’t see consistent action on the field, but did play in a 20-12 win over Williams College that snapped Amherst’s 13-game losing streak against the Ephs. He looks on that victory as one of the highlights of 12 seasons at Amherst despite the lack of personal glory. “I didn’t really contribute very much to that game but it was such a highlight to me because of what it meant,” said Whiting. “I was so happy to be a part of Amherst football that day. It made me so much more excited about the next three years.”
The next season Whiting stepped into the starting role and never looked back. He had 31 tackles his sophomore season. His junior year he had two interceptions and 39 tackles and in his final season in which he served as quad-captain, Whiting had a team-leading three interceptions and 25 tackles despite sitting out one game with an injury and playing with a broken hand against Williams.
Whiting played in the Williams game after having had surgery on his hand and wearing a cast. “He had a club virtually on his hand,” recalled Mills. “A lot of kids wouldn’t even have played.” However, Whiting not only played-he excelled. “I was a little concerned,” said Mills. And then, “on the first play that comes to him, he makes an interception and puts it all to rest.”
Whiting’s play earned him a cache of accolades this season: the DeOrmand “Tuss” McLaughry Award as the outstanding scholar-athlete in Western Massachusetts, First-Team CoSIDA Academic All-America, First-Team All-NESCAC, First-Team ECAC Div. III Northeast All-Star and Don Hansen’s Weekly Football Gazette Div. III All-East Region honors.
Mills was quick to describe Whiting’s skills on the football field: “He’s got tremendous quickness, he’s very athletic, he’s hard-nosed, he’s very much a perfectionist. … His athleticism and his competitiveness have allowed him to succeed on the field. He’s been a model of consistency.” However, Mills did not limit his admiration of Whiting to sports. “He’s just the nicest person that I’ve ever met. He’s just been such an influence on every program he’s been a part of.”
Whiting’s influence on the track team has been confined to the indoor season due to baseball, but he has left his mark there as well. He is a school record holder in the 4×200 relay and an ECAC qualifier in the triple jump.
“Having Paul as a teammate is humbling,” said Julius Nanna ’04, one of Whiting’s teammates on the track team. “One of his strengths is that he is very supportive and very encouraging, and a great person to work with.”
As for baseball, Whiting, “has been a rock in center field for four years now,” according to teammate Dave Powers ’05. “He covers a ton of ground and has a knack for making great plays when the game is on the line.”
This season, Whiting has nine steals and is batting .275. He recently scored the winning run in Amherst’s NESCAC Championship victory over Williams. The win had importance on a number of levels for Whiting, as it was his first outright league championship in any sport and also the first time the baseball team had beaten Williams “in a really big game,” said Whiting. It was “the kind of day that you live for and you dream about when you’re a little kid playing baseball in Little League,” he continued. “You dream about playing in those big games. It’s about as close to [the World Series] as I would ever hope to get and even more special in a lot of ways than Major League Baseball.”
“His attitude is unlike anyone’s I’ve ever played with,” said Powers. “When people first meet him they think, ‘that can’t be how he really is.’ But once you get to know him you realize it is.”
Off the field
More impressive than Whiting’s performances on the field are the contributions he has made to Amherst in other areas. As Mills said, “He just happens to be an athlete also.”
A neuroscience major who is pre-med and has a high GPA, Whiting has also spent two years on the leadership team of the Amherst Christian Fellowship and three years helping to lead Athletes in Action, a group of Christian athletes on campus that volunteers at a local soup kitchen, among other things. He also participated in Shoes That Fit, a program that provides gifts around the holidays for underprivileged children.
Whiting plans to go to medical school, but this summer he’ll be traveling to Venezuela and Nicaragua to play baseball on a mission trip with other members of Athletes in Action from all over the country. In the fall he will return home to California “to reconnect with family and friends” and to look at medical school applications. In the spring he hopes to work in Houston, Texas and to do some urban ministry work which he hopes will prepare him for his future career as a doctor.
While thinking about life without organized athletics is “weird” for Whiting, he is looking forward to finding other ways to take advantage of the blessings he’s been given. “From here on out it’s not going to be athletics, it’s going to be my career as a doctor or my family or my relationships.” He is also looking forward to “diversifying” his athletic participation and trying sports like surfing which he never before had time to try.
Wherever he goes and whatever he does, Whiting will continue to leave his mark, and Amherst has been lucky in so many ways to have been chosen and marked by Whiting’s presence.