ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions promoted former vice president of pro personnel Sheldon White to interim general manager on Thursday after the firing of Martin Mayhew.
The 50-year-old White, like Mayhew, has been with the Lions for a long time. He is in season No. 19 with the club, having worked his way up from being a BLESTO area scout to now. And while the trade deadline has already passed so the amount of maneuvering White can do with a roster that started the season at 1-7 is minimal, here are a few things to know about him.
1. He’s been sought after: White was a candidate for the general manager job in Philadelphia this offseason and he has been viewed as a personnel executive to watch as far as becoming a potential general manager one day. He twice won the Johnnie Cochran Salute to Excellence award that is given out by the Fritz Pollard Alliance. He’s been groomed for a top NFL job, also going through the NFL career development program at Stanford in 2004.
2. White has made shrewd personnel decisions before: White is the one who convinced Mayhew to sign defensive end George Johnson before the 2014 season. Johnson turned into an integral part of a Lions defensive line that had the top-ranked run defense in 2014. White also pushed for the signing of veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis, who became a starting cornerback for the Lions the past three seasons and was one of the better corners in the league in 2014. He was also heading up a Pro Personnel department that signed receiver Golden Tate and safety James Ihedigbo in free agency in 2014 as well as Reggie Bush and Glover Quin in 2013. All four ended up being major contributors -- with Tate and Quin going to last season’s Pro Bowl.
3. He played in the league: Like his predecessor, White was a defensive back in the NFL, playing in 72 games from 1988 to 1993, including three seasons with the Lions from 1990 to 1992. He had 11 interceptions in his career, including one touchdown. He played college ball at Miami (Ohio), where he was placed in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014. He graduated from Miami (Ohio) with a major in finance and also got his start in coaching at Miami (Ohio) in 1994 as a wide receivers coach. One of the people who helped develop White as a player was the late Terry Hoeppner.
4. He coached with Sean Payton: When he was the receivers coach at Miami, he worked with Sean Payton, then the RedHawks quarterbacks coach. According to a story in the Dayton Daily News, he and Payton shared a cubicle. He and now-Buffalo offensive line coach Aaron Kromer were college teammates and also coached together on the staff with Payton. The offensive coordinator was Kevin Wilson, now the head coach at Indiana. They all were coaches together under the late Randy Walker.
5. He’s an Ohio native: White grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where he went to Meadowdale High School. According to that story in the Dayton Daily News, his father, Lawrence, was a postal worker and his mother, Coralene, a homemaker. According to that same story, Michigan State had shown interest in him in high school, but went through a coaching change from Muddy Waters to George Perles and the interest from the Spartans dropped.
6. White unlikely to land the job full-time: He would be an attractive candidate for other GM jobs, but considering the Lions fired Mayhew -- an interim-turned-full-time GM -- on Thursday, that doesn’t bode well for White’s long-term viability as the Detroit GM. Unlike Mayhew, who took over as an interim before the trade deadline in 2008 and swung the memorable Roy Williams trade to Dallas for three draft picks less than a month later, the trade deadline has passed so White can’t make a blockbuster move to show his general managing abilities. So it’s possible he’ll be a candidate, but he’d have to do a lot to secure the job permanently.