A Whit's keys to life

12-20-02, 7:10 a.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Bernard Whittington, who has the power to turn pain into joy at his fingertips on and off the field, would love to write a song about his Bengals.

Of course, the man they call "Whit," loves to write songs about anything and he shows it in Thursday's sit down with bengals.com audio that is part concert and part interview.

His Christmas arrangement of "Snowfalls from a Blue Sky," floats on the strains of a saxophone into his versatile CD ranging from hip-hop to jazz to rhythm and blues in a dynamic merger of football's brutality and music's soul.

Whittington, a nine-year defensive end who has played anywhere on the line during playoff runs and lost seasons for the Colts and Bengals, needs them both.

"When I'm playing the piano, I use my fingers as almost like an instrument," Whittington says. "When I'm playing footbalI, I use my hands like weapons. Shed blocks, strip balls from quarterbacks, and things of that sort.

"Playing football in the NFL is so much stress involved that just being able to get away from the game and just sit at a piano and write and create music, or play

somebody else's music brings a great joy. It totally takes my mind away from everything."

The Bengals song?

Whittington himself would most likely be on the piano, like he is on "Snowfall," and there would be a sax, some woodwinds, and a powerful array of orchestral sounds.

"It would be about adversity and how adversity builds and rebuilds character no matter how bad things get," Whittington says. "That there's still some good that comes out of it.

"It would be something definitely good. I like to have different types of styles to my music."

The song would be positive because that's all Whittington has "in that big old head," where he says he keeps most of his songs. His CD "Concerns of the World," recorded a few years ago, is nothing but upbeat.

"Life goes on. There's different things going on in life. No matter how bad things are, you still have to keep moving on and staying positive. One thing that this album is, I try to stay very, very positive because my music is a reflection of who I am."

Who is he?

He's been the starter most of this year at left end because of the injuries to Vaughn Booker and even though he wasn't expected to play so much, he has responded with typical professionalism and offered solid and durable play in a difficult year. When the Bengals rebuilt their locker room with character veterans a year ago, he was one of the pieces and it will be interesting to see if they keep free agents like Whittington and Lorenzo Neal during the offseason.

Whttington, who would like to return, hasn't missed a game here in his two seasons and figures he's only missed two because of injury in his entire career. Don't expect him to start missing games now because of the record and the fact he was driven from the last game with a groin injury.

"My father always taught me if you're going to start something, you have to finish it," Whittington says. "I don't believe in quitting at all. No matter how bad things are. Anybody can go into work at 13-1 and so happy to be around. . .No matter, there are still things expected of us as football players."

The connection to family and the upbeat side of things is a dominant theme in his music. When he wrote and arranged "Snowfalls," for a charity CD the Colts put out back in 1998, he saw a man surrounded by loved ones during the holidays staring out the window counting his blessings. In one of his personal favorites from "Concerns," the love song details how a man quite didn't know what he had in a woman after kicking away a relationship he now tries to save.

"I have so much material now," Whittington says. "Most of this music is in this big old head of mine right now. I have a piano, but at my workstation I'm also able to have a keyboard. I can add drums in, or a guitar in, based on how I feel."

Many times, Whittington comes home from practice with the songs in his head and attacks the piano. The connection with football and music has always seemed to be there, too, since he started taking piano at age 11. He comes from a family of eight children and his parents really didn't know much about football and preferred him to stay busy with music.

"Piano lessons and football practice and football games were kind of like on the same day, so I had to pick and choose," Whittington says. "I chose football and my parents didn't like it very much. But they found out I was pretty good at it . . .and when I got a scholarship, then they kind of liked it."

Whittington is working on another album, which he figures is another year away. He still has some copies of "Concerns of the World," and anyone interested in purchasing the CD can contact the site at the bottom of the home page.

For the full interview with Whittington, please click

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