Most University of Georgia football players aren’t well received by Volunteers fans.
But most football players aren’t like Tennessee Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon.
Witherspoon, who played for the Bulldogs from 1998-2001, spent over 30 minutes on Tuesday doing a Skype interview with Dr. Amber Roessner’s advanced sports reporting class (JEM 475).
“When I first contacted Will, I was in a bit of a crunch because my initial guest speaker for that class had fallen through,” Roessner said. “He agreed to do it, literally, with one day notice of off a Facebook message.
 “I was really surprised with how long he was willing to talk with our class. I knew Will when I was a young student journalist working at the University of Georgia’s student newspaper, the Red and Black. I was a sports reporter there and he was on the football team.”
The interview was originally scheduled to take place on March 13, the Tuesday before Spring Break, but a timing issue came up where Dr. Roessner and her class were expecting Witherspoon to Skype at 2:30 EST, but Witherspoon believed it was at 2:30 CST.
When the interview finally took place, the 10-year NFL veteran discussed his journey through professional football, as well as his unique life away from the gridiron.
“It was a great learning experience for our class,” Jason Hall, senior in journalism and electronic media, said. “Will Witherspoon seems to represent both the Titans and the NFL positively and was nothing short of kind and courteous to our class. Dr. Roessner also deserves credit for scheduling such an interesting guest. It was a nice change of pace from UT-oriented assignments and definitely an interesting assignment.”
Witherspoon was raised in a military family and lived in Germany, England and Arizona growing up. He said he didn’t live in the U.S. full-time until he was 11 or 12. The different experiences help him now, in a business where players often change teams, because he’s been able to adapt to the different environments and cultures of NFL teams and cities. Witherspoon’s played for four teams: Carolina (2002-’05), St. Louis (’06-’09), Philadelphia (’09) and Tennessee (2010-current).
“I spend a lot of time moving around and getting to learn how to meet new people,” Witherspoon said. “In that process, one of the better things was it taught me how to deal with a lot of different situations and deal with a lot of different types of people.”
Coming out of Georgia, Witherspoon was a three-year starter but had started a different position each of those seasons. He said the uncertainty of knowing what position he was going to play at the next level caused his draft stock to be anywhere from the second round to the sixth round.
“I just took it in stride. I wasn’t one of those guys who just banked on football being the only thing I did. I was an agricultural engineering major at Georgia,” he said. “Worst case scenario was I was going back to school for another year to finish up and go out in the world and do what I wanted to do.”
Witherspoon was drafted in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Panthers. He played four seasons in Carolina, highlighted by an appearance in Super Bowl 38, where the Panthers lost on a last-second field goal to the New England Patriots. Despite collecting a career-high 16 tackles in the game, Witherspoon wants to return so he can win a world championship.
“You’ve always got that itch to go back. That’s what it is,” he said. “Once you get it, especially to have been there and lost it, you always have that itch to get back and win the big ring. The ring I got for winning the (2004) NFC Championship is one thing, a beautiful thing, I keep it in my safe. It’s one of those things you look at and you go, ‘I’m this close. I want to turn that edge and get over the top.’”
After five seasons in Carolina, Witherspoon signed with the Rams as a free agent in 2006. He spent three full seasons in St. Louis before being traded to the Eagles midway through the 2009 season. Because of the teams’ bye week schedules, he became one of just five players to play in 17 NFL regular season games in a year.
He still uses his degree from Georgia, running a 450-acre grass-fed beef farm, Shiregate Farms, in Owensville, Mo. In addition, he also operates two dog day-care centers along with former Panthers teammate Dan Morgan.
Despite the lengthy NFL career — he’s entering his third season with the Titans and 11th overall — Witherspoon still plays the game he loves.
“I don’t get in the hot tub or cold tub like most of these guys do,” he said. “I just go to work every day.”
For Roessner, the innovative interview worked out well enough that she’s planning another one in the future.
 “I thought it worked out really well to Skype in with him, and actually we’re going to Skype in later in the semester with a panel of sports reporters,” she said. “My only concern with it were there were some snafus with it, especifically with the video timing out, and so I felt like it was a bad television commercial for a minute.”