From the sidelines to the first round, Kevin White’s persistence pays off
LAKE FOREST – With over 70 people in the Windy City for the festivities, a lot of extra effort paid off in a big way on Thursday night.
It began in Plainfield, New Jersey as a kid. It stalled out while just out of high school in Pennsylvania. It was rekindled in Scranton and became reality in Morgantown. It reached fruition on the stage at the Roosevelt University auditorium.
Kevin White hugged his family after Roger Goodell read his name as the 7th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. When the hometown Bears fans started to cheer, the receiver pumped his fists to embrace their joy.
A big hug for the commissioner and a big smile for the camera as he held his No. 1 jersey as the top pick for the Bears.
“It’s crazy, like a dream come true,” said White of his selection in the NFL Draft. “It still hasn’t hit me yet since I’ve been running around and doing so much.”
That could be something he’d say about the last six years of his football career. It makes doing what he did on Thursday and then on Friday a bit surreal.
As he was showing off his Bears jersey to reporters at Halas Hall on Friday, White couldn’t help but think to when his career in football seemed all but done.
Despite a standout career at Emmaus High School in Pennsylvania his grades weren’t high enough and he had to attend Lackawanna Junior College. But after an enrollment issue cost him the 2010 season and an injury did the same in 2011, White’s resolve to keep playing football was tested as his days to keep playing seemed to be closing.
“A lot of people didn’t think I would get here, missing the two seasons at junior college,” said White. “It’s been a lot. I had a lot of doubters but I have a great support system around me.”
That includes six brothers and sisters. That motivation along with his desire to keep playing football kept him training during the two years off at FASST Performance in Easton, Pennsylvania. He finally took the field at Lackawanna Junior College in 2012 with a goal to try and get a Division I scholarship which he almost had out of high school.
He even sent out emails to several schools to gauge interest. White's persistence would pay off with a scholarship to West Virginia where in two years he went from unknown to elite.
Joining the Mountaineers in 2013 White caught 35 passes for 507 yards and five touchdowns in his first season then burst onto the scene in 2014. He caught 109 passes for 1,447 yards and ten touchdowns and quickly became one of the top five receivers in college football and at the top of many draft boards.
"I'm very proud. I'm glad I didn't give up. I was pretty close sometimes," said White when reflecting on his college career. "Just because it was always something. I always had to get over a hump. "I didn't think it was my calling. I guess 'Alright I can't go Division I and live my dreams out.
"But it came through thanks to the man upstairs and I'm blessed."
Already he's trying to make the most of his new opportunity. He was at Halas Hall on Friday meeting everyone including quarterback Jay Cutler who White said texted him after the team selected him in the draft.
"A deep threat, having speed, blocking downfield," said White of what he can bring to the Bears offense. "Move the chains."
It's an opportunity he always wanted to have in the pros. Persistence certainly paid off for the player wearing the Orange and Blue jersey.