Daniel Whelan’s journey to the Green Bay Packers in the NFL has been deemed "remarkable."
Whelan, a native of Co Wicklow who moved to California at 13 and didn’t try American football until he was a junior in high school, found out he made the Green Bay Packers initial roster via text from special teams assistant coach Byron Storer on August 28.
"I was like, 'What? For real?'" Whelan, 24, told Packers.com this week.
"Then a couple hours later, people were saying congratulations and things like that, so I was like, OK. Wow."
Whelan won the spot over incumbent Pat O’Donnell, who spent eight years with the Bears and one with the Packers.
"He actually left me a note in my locker with some kind words, so I reached out to him and talked to him,” Whelan said.
“I appreciated working with him. I love him. Great dude. He helped me become what I am right now, so I'm very grateful for him, being here."
In the midst of the Packers training camp, special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia spoke about Whelan and O’Donnell.
“We think it's been a really good competition between the both of them," Bisaccia said on August 18.
“They both have their strengths and for Whelan it's new.
“Obviously, his football awareness is increasing all the time, but he's had some good days and he's had some days where he didn't get the hang that he quite expects, and so I think we'll look forward to how he plays here in the next two games.
“I think he's learning a lot from being around Pat and I think his holding has gotten better as well by getting the repetitions that he's getting in practice.”
When the initial Packers roster was revealed on August 29, Whelan quickly made headlines, especially in Irish circles, as it emerged that he is now poised to be the first Irish-born player to play in the NFL since Dubliner Neil O'Donoghue's final season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985.
As it happens, Whelan had some help from perhaps his biggest Irish fan - his mom, Anne Marie Doyle, who he had flip him underhanded snaps so he could practice his holds between minicamp and training camp over the summer.
"They're not good but it helps you work on bad-ball drills," Whelan joked to Packers.com regarding his mom's efforts.
"Just on my knee in the kitchen. She's throwing whatever she can. 'Hey mom, can you throw me some snaps? I need to get some holds in.' And she'd do it."
Doyle, of course, is immensely proud of her son and his NFL journey, taking to social media in several instances to celebrate his successes.
So proud my son @dan__whelan who made the 53 player roster today for the Green Bay @packers - all the determination & attitude got you here, now the hard work begins….the adventure continues ❤️☘️ pic.twitter.com/wviZwxgkBo— Anne Marie Doyle (@AMTWhelan) August 30, 2023
Whelan is now focused on the next milestone - the Packers' week one game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, September 10.
"I've already tried to visualize it, where it's going to be, so I can get my best punt," he said.
"It's good to be nervous. You can't not be. It's the first regular-season game of the season against Chicago. It's crazy. Can't ask for a better picture."