James Francis "Jim" Whalen, Jr, grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a three-sport star at Cambridge and Latin High School, in football, baseball and ice hockey and was subsequently inducted into the Cambridge Rindge and Latin Athletic Hall of Fame.
He was considered one of the finest pass catchers and all-around athletes to graduate from Boston College. At the time of his graduation after the 1964 season, he was the top pass receiver in Boston College history with 73 career receptions. In addition to being one of the top ends in the country, he was called upon to also punt his senior season.
During his tenure at BC, he also lettered in baseball and ice hockey in addition to football The 1963, 1964 and 1965 BC Eagles hockey teams won the Beanpot Tournament while the 1963 and 1965 teams each reached the national Frozen Four.
In 1963, he was a consensus First-Team All-East selection as offensive end and ranked first nationally in yards per catch with an average of 20.1. His 523 receiving yards on 26 catches ranked eighth nationally. In addition to leading BC in receiving yards, he also led in receptions.He was accorded Third-Team All-American and repeated as consensus First-Team All-East in 1964. After the conclusion of the season, he was selected as a starter in both the East – West Shrine Game, as well as the Senior Bowl.
Although being recruited by teams from the National Hockey League as well as from others in Major League Baseball, Jim chose football and signed with the Boston Patriots, who had drafted him with the 23rd overall pick in 1965.
With the Patriots, in 1966, his four receiving touchdowns ranked him first among AFL tight ends. On November 13, 1966, he scored his first professional touchdown on a 42-yard pass reception from Babe Parilli in a 27–21 win over the Houston Oilers.
in 1967, his 651 receiving yards was tops among all Patriot receivers and his five receiving touchdowns also topped the squad. On October 15, 1967, he tied the Patriots record of three touchdowns in a single game, during a 41–10 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins.
In 1968 his 47 catches and seven touchdowns as a tight end, each led the AFL and ranked second among all AFL and NFL tight ends. He also piled up 718 receiving yards ranking second among AFL tight ends. His 87-yard pass reception on a against the Super Bowl Champion New York Jets was at the time, the longest play from scrimmage in Patriots history and also one of the longest by a tight end in professional football history.
For his accomplishments, he would be accorded First Team All-Pro, marking the first time that any Patriots receiver, tight end or otherwise, would be selected First Team All-Pro.He had a career game high eight receptions against the Oakland Raiders on October 6, 1968. It would be over 25 years until another Patriot tight end, Ben Coates, would exceed both his receptions per scheduled game. He led the Patriots in both touchdowns and total yards from scrimmage (718) in 1968. It was the first of only two seasons in Patriots history, that a tight end would lead the club in yards from scrimmage.
September 28, 1969, in a loss against the Oakland Raiders, he scored his last touchdown as a Patriot. After the season, he was traded to the Denver Broncos and then in 1971, was sent to the Philadelphia Eagles.
He was one of only four Patriot tight ends (Russ Francis, Ben Coates and Rob Gronkowski) to string together three consecutive seasons of 500+ yards receiving. Additionally, his Patriot career yards per reception average of 16.3 ranked first among all Patriot tight ends and sixth all-time among all Patriot receivers.
He didn’t grab as many headlines in his day as his teammate Gino Cappelletti but he grabbed 152 passes, mostly from Babe Parilli, and that was good enough to place him in the top 30 all-time for the Patriots.
Jim was elected into the Patriots 1960s All-Decade Team and also was elected into the Boston College Varsity Club Hall of Fame in 1995.
After his playing days were over, he kept a low profile for the most part, working in contractor sales at the Danvers Home Depot.
He had several heart attacks, lung cancer, and had been living with two completely collapsed vertebrae. Jim Whalen died on December 18, 2012 in Gloucester, after a long bout with the his health problems.