A lot of Bills players have plans for their bye weekend. Some are returning to their hometowns to reunite with family. Others are taking a weekend vacation. Bills safety Donte Whitner is going back to school.
Buffalo's defensive co-captain will be serving his alma mater as an honorary captain for the Ohio State-Purdue game at Ohio Stadium (the Horseshoe) in Columbus on Saturday.
"Coach Tressel asked me if I would like to be an honorary captain and I said, 'Yes,'" said Whitner. "So I'm going to be there to toss the coin and watch the game."
Whitner has always been big on college pride, but credits Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel with keeping the tradition alive at Ohio State.
"At some schools you go to they don't pay much attention to tradition, but he keeps all the tradition going," Whitner said. "They still sing the alma mater to the marching band after every win. That's why guys love to come back."
Tressel also has a former player serve as honorary captain each week. In addition to making the coin flip on game day at midfield, Whitner will have to address the team Saturday morning.
"The day before the home games we stay in the hotel and he'll have one of the previous all-Americans from the 50's or 60's all the way up to his former players come to captain the breakfast and speak to the team after pre-game meal. Coach then gives him a coin with his face on it that he will flip for the game."
Whitner will also get an opportunity to spend time with his younger brother Dawawn Whitner a 6'5" defensive tackle that is currently a grey shirt for the Buckeyes. Basically he's a practice player enrolled at Ohio State, and then next year will be part of the 2009 recruiting class, at which point he can be redshirted or play his freshman season.
"I'll be able to hang with my brother," said Whitner. "He has an apartment down there now and he's only 18 so I'm going to check it out and see how he's living over there."
Whitner, who was an All-American in 2005 as a junior, also has a tree planted for him in Buckeye Grove near the southwest corner of the stadium and plans to see how much it has grown.
"If you're an all-American they'll plant a tree with a plaque with your name in front of it kind of like the Hollywood walk of stars," said Whitner. "And the tree grows outside of the stadium forever, so if you want to take your kids there 20 years from now and show them that you were an all-American there and tell them, 'This is my tree.'"
Whitner said his tree is not as big as some of the others.
"You have guys like Orlando Pace who have been in the league for 10 years now and their trees are huge now," said Whitner. "But you look at a tree like mine or A.J. Hawk's and they're not big at all. But every year you come back and see how much your tree has grown. It's nice."
What will be really nice is seeing his younger brother and his likeness on the head of a coin.
"They print it on there your picture when you were at Ohio State and after the coin flip they allow you to keep the coin. So I'm keeping it," said Whitner. "It'll be cool."