Saturday, October 26, 2013
Football journey: Chris White
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Receiver Wes Welker is the highest profile acquisition the New England Patriots have made for a player with AFC East ties. But he’s far from the only one.
The familiarity of facing a player twice a year in division play has led the Patriots to sign several others in Bill Belichick's 14-year coaching tenure, such as receiver Sam Aiken (Bills), cornerback Marquice Cole (Jets), defensive end Shaun Ellis (Jets) and running back Sammy Morris (Bills/Dolphins), among others.
This year, core special teams player Chris White has been added to the list.
White played 22 games for the Bills in 2011-2012 after being selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft, so when the Patriots were looking for special teams help at the 53-man roster cutdown in September, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound White was at the top of their list.
“He’s a young guy  but experienced and plays in all four phases of the game [kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt return, punt coverage],” Belichick said. “He’s a core guy for us -- dependable, smart, works hard.”
White, who has played in all seven games this season, totaling three special-teams tackles (2 solo, 1 assisted), shares his “football journey”:
When he first started playing football: “I started when I was young, flag football. I was 5 or 6 maybe. My mom [Amy Myrick] had put me in all sports -- basketball, baseball, football. I did everything.”
First positions: “Running back and linebacker.”
Role models in his life: “My mom. I look up to her bigtime. She kind of raised me and my brother [Carl] by herself. My parents got divorced, and my dad [Larry] died when I was 8. It was tough, but she’s always been there for me. She’s the reason why I’m here today.”
Chris White, left, has played on special teams in all seven Patriots games this season.
Learning important lessons at Vancleave (Miss) High School: “To tell you the truth, I kind of messed around in high school and didn’t take my classes as seriously as I should have. That led me to Junior College, which was probably the best thing that happened to me. The only D-I school I had been getting recruited to was Southern Miss., and I ended up going to Mississippi State [after junior college]. We had a pretty good two years when I was there, under a new coach, Dan Mullen. That helped my career out a lot.”
Attending Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College: “It definitely helped [get me on track] -- small school, small Mississippi town. It was close to home, about an hour away, and that helped. I could go home on the weekends and see my family and stuff like that. They check classes there; you have to keep your grades up. [Coach] Steve Campbell, he does a really good job with that program. He’s still there and is a great head coach.”
How he ultimately turned the corner with grades: “I think football helped a lot. I started seeing I was pretty good at football, so I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to take my grades and classes pretty seriously now.’ In high school, I just wanted to have fun. I got by.”
Football at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College: “We won a national championship my freshman year, which was awesome, 12-0. Then my sophomore year, we went 10-2. We won a lot of games there, and they’re still really good.”
Earning a scholarship at Mississippi State: “It was in-state, an SEC school, and it’s a good college town. I definitely enjoyed it. I had committed after my first year of junior college. Other schools were talking to me -- South Florida, Kansas State, Southern Miss -- but they didn’t really offer me a scholarship because I was already committed.”
Top football memories at Mississippi State: “I’d probably say beating Florida and Georgia my senior year. Those were pretty fun games. We played Florida in Gainesville, and I was the national defensive player of the week. I enjoyed that [smiling]. ”
Drafted in the sixth round by the Bills in 2011: “I was expecting it, knowing I was going to go late, but I was still disappointed [it wasn’t earlier]. Still, you get the call and you’re excited. I was pumped.”
Lessons from his two-plus years with the Bills: “You learn that NFL is ‘Not For Long’ -- guys come and go. It’s a tough business, but it’s a good business. It’s a great town, a great sports town. They love their Bills, so it’s a good place to play.”
Top football memory from the Bills: “[Laughing] Probably beating the Patriots my rookie year. That was a great game for us.”
Traded by the Bills in the 2013 preseason for Lions QB Thad Lewis: “I was kind of shocked and surprised by it, but that happens. I had to go with it. Then the Lions released me [within a week] and I ended up here. So I’m happy about playing here.”
If he takes anything with him from his brief stop in Detroit: “Not too much. When it’s that fast, it’s kind of like a blur.”
Reaction to being claimed by the Patriots on Sept. 1: “I was pumped. There’s a lot of winning here. I like that.”
Proud of his Mississippi roots: “I love Mississippi. People are really nice down there. It's a lot of small towns and just great people. The coast is a good place to live, because you have the water and a few things to do. Not as much compared to Boston, but still things to do.”
Favorite professional athlete growing up: “Brett Favre. Obviously, a Mississippi guy [smiling].”
Favorite professional team growing up: “The Washington Redskins. My dad was a big Redskins fan, I don’t know why he was. But we were bigtime Redskins fans. I was a Saints fan, too. My stepfather [Nick Myrick], that’s still one of his favorite teams, behind us obviously [smiling].”
Impressions of New England from a Mississippian: “I like it a lot. The country is so pretty up here; the trees and stuff are beautiful. In Mississippi, you see a lot of pine trees. You come up here and it’s different. I love it.”
Summing up his football journey: “Kind of the underdog. I’ve always been fighting to earn a job and keep playing. That’s what I’m still trying to do -- keep fighting.”