Team Player: James White x’14
Senior running back James White keeps reminding himself, “Whenever you get your opportunities, just make the most of each play.”
He did it in high school at St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida, standing second in line for carries to star halfback Giovani Bernard.
He also did it in his first three seasons at the UW, serving as a change-of-pace running back to starters John Clay x’11 and Montee Ball x’13.
And he will attempt to do it once again this season — even if he finally captures that elusive role as the lead rusher.
While White’s counterparts thrived as feature backs (Bernard and Ball were the first and third running backs selected in the 2013 NFL draft, respectively), White dug out a niche in his reserve role. He believes that experience molded him into a versatile player — capable of running inside and outside of the tackles, catching passes out of the backfield, pass protecting, and returning kicks.
Despite inconsistent opportunities, White’s production remained steady. The speedy halfback won consensus Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2010 after scoring fourteen touchdowns and eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark on the ground. His 2,571 career rushing yards place him among the top active leading rushers in the NCAA.
However, after bursting onto the scene as a freshman, White’s carries declined each of the following seasons. But he remains undeterred, noting, “Even though I may not have the starting job and may not be getting the most carries, I know that I have a role on the team.”
White now has an inside track on the feature running back role with Ball’s departure. These days, even with NFL aspirations lingering in the back of his mind, White is focused on evolving into a leader.
“It feels like just yesterday I was one of the young people in the [locker] room, and now I’m the oldest running back,” he says. “I definitely have to lead by example, be a little bit more vocal, step outside my comfort zone, and just show the team what hard work’s about.”
Published in the Fall 2013 issue