When future NFL draft prospect Mister Elias De’Angelo Philyor was about 6 years old, his father, Daniel, would put him in the back seat of his black 1999 Cadillac STS and drive over to the Burger King on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa, Florida.
The fast-food meals were an easy choice for Daniel, who at the time was a freshly single dad in his 20s. He wasn’t one to cook, and after he split with Mister’s mother, Holley Mouling, after 13 years, the two shared Mister and their two daughters amicably. On his days, though, Daniel needed a go-to restaurant to feed his young kids, and since Burger King was his favorite place, the home of the Whopper became a regular stop.
Daniel’s order was the same every time: a Whopper with cheese for him and a cheeseburger kids meal for his son.
Only, Mister wanted what his dad was having.
“I was like, ‘Man, you can’t eat the big old burger, boy,'” Daniel remembers saying.
Mister persisted for weeks, and Daniel finally relented, letting his young son try the adult-sized burger. To his surprise, Mister ate the whole thing. Daniel started calling Mister “Little Whop” after a few of those early trips to Burger King, unknowingly giving his son a nickname.
Fast-forward 16 years and the nickname is still around. Whop Philyor is now a 22-year-old man standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 180 pounds, and he’s preparing for the 2021 NFL draft after catching 124 passes for 1,497 yards and eight touchdowns the past two seasons for the Indiana Hoosiers.
This year’s draft class is stocked with wide receivers, which means Whop might not hear his name called until the final day of the draft, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper said about 37 pass-catchers could be taken this year, including tight ends, and Whop might be among the last 10 to come off the board — somewhere in the fifth or sixth round.
“There’s a lot of slot guys and guys that can play both inside and outside,” Kiper said. “He’s been a fun guy to watch. … I like getting him the ball in space. He’s been a productive guy, catches the ball consistently. He was a real fear-factor player for them at Indiana.”
And even though he hasn’t had a Whopper since his sophomore year of college, the name has lasted, although the “little” was dropped when Mister turned 13.
“Man, don’t call me little,” Philyor said. “I’m not little. Every little dude got little dude syndrome. Man, I’m not little. Don’t be calling me little.”
Love from tragedy
Growing up as Daniel and Holley’s only son, Whop had relationships with each of his parents that developed in their own ways.
Each, however, is a branch grown from tragedy.
Daniel and Holley’s first son died in April 1998 when he was 1 year old after he fell out of a second-floor window when Holley was about six months pregnant with Whop. That moment changed how each would parent Whop.
“It only did make me more alert, more aware,” Daniel said. “Because I was gonna be a good dad to Whop because where I come from, a lot of us don’t have that. And I always told myself, when I have children, I’m going to be the best dad. I think I did a good job.”
Holley and Daniel have told Whop a lot about his brother, whose death changed how they parented. Everything they planned to do with their first son, they made sure to do with Whop, but with more vigor.
When Whop was born, Daniel, a former semipro football player, was set on introducing him to the sport as early as possible, putting him on a field by 3 years old, only to have the toddler start crying.
“I put everything into the Whop,” said Daniel, who had Whop running routes on a basketball court by the time he was 7. As much as Whop protested, his father assured him everything would work out.
The results started coming in early. Whop ran for a 75-yard touchdown as a fullback in his first Pop Warner game.
Whop continued to work, a trait he says comes from his mother, a Medicare provider with her own staffing firm and one of the only people who still call him De’Angelo.
“It was some crazy stuff my mom went through,” Whop said. “Like, she had to leave me and stuff, and when she came back, we didn’t really have anything. We didn’t have much.
“She sacrificed herself not eating because we had to eat and stuff. … She worked like all through high school, through college, working three jobs to keep our lights on, do everything to make sure we have money while we was at college and everything. So she just instilled that in me.”
One of the first things Whop wants to do with his NFL paychecks is to build his mom an office to work out of. Hearing that he has plans for her made Holley pause. They’ve never talked about what he wants for her. Their talks usually center on her wanting her son to be great.
“My son is my everything,” Holley said. “He is different from the girls. It’s like, I can’t explain it, but he’s just different when it comes to my kids. He’s just different. Maybe I just hold on to him closer because we lost that first son early. So I think I hold on to De’Angelo a little tighter, and I’d be more strict on De’Angelo. Like, he can’t do anything. Like, if he comes home and wants to hang out with his friends, he’s on a curfew. It’s like I’m holding him closer to my heart than my other kids. We just got a relationship like, I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. I just love him too much.”
Whop has stepbrothers and calls his former teammates his brothers, but he said that’s different from having a blood-related brother. He calls the brother he never met his guardian angel.
Sometimes he’ll talk to him before going to bed.
“He’s with me all the time,” Whop said.
About that name
When people hear Whop’s name for the first time, they’ll usually ask him to repeat it. Then they’ll ask him to repeat it again. And then they’ll ask him to repeat it a third time, usually with a “What did you say?” sprinkled in.
Indiana head coach Tom Allen met Whop during his sophomore year at Plant High School in Tampa. Whop played with Allen’s son, Thomas, and the two had struck up a friendship. They were by the field house when Whop walked up to Allen, introduced himself and gave Allen a hug.
But as much as Allen was instantly struck by Whop’s outgoing personality, he couldn’t get past his name and eventually got the full story from him.
“I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?'” Allen told ESPN with a laugh.
From then on, and throughout Whop’s time at Indiana, Allen called him Whopper.
Allen’s reaction has been pretty typical.
When Whop started introducing himself around campus at Indiana, some people asked if he was named after the “Wop” dance. Instead of explaining the whole backstory, he’d just go with it because “that’s an easy way for people to remember it.”
However, other students at Indiana thought Whop was introducing himself using an ethnic slur directed at people of Italian descent.
“I’d be like, ‘No, it’s not spelled that way,'” Whop said. “I ain’t gonna lie. College was probably the most frustrating part of me telling my name because teachers would be like, ‘Whop?’ Yeah, that’s my name. Sorry, that’s my name.”
Opposing players have called his name cool. Fans on Twitter have said that they named their dog after him, or that their young daughter wanted to be called Whop.
Growing up, no one cared about his name, Whop says now. Other kids would ask what his name was, he’d tell them, and they’d just continue playing.
The one person who won’t call him Whop is his mother. She has tried to convince him to go by De’Angelo, but Whop has refused.
“I didn’t think it was gonna go this far,” she said. “It’s just amazing to me how that name became who he is.”
All these years later, with less than a month left until the draft, Whop wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like it,” he said. “I like being called Whop because I just felt like it sticks with me, like it’s me. Because my real name is Mister, like, who wants to be called Mister growing up? I feel like, man, people get picked on for stuff like that. I’m not trying to get picked on, and Whop is, like, unique, you know?
“I’ve never heard anybody with the name Whop. So I’m like, ‘Man, I’ma just go by this. I like this. It’s different.'”