WHITE tells you about himself--and why he believes he'd be an excellent
first-round pick for any team inclined to draft a 6'1", 240-pound running
back--the former USC standout wants to make it very clear who he isn't. Terrell
Owens, for starters. "I'm not TO," White insists. "I'm not a bad
seed. On Saturdays, if my college teammates had to put a million dollars on
somebody coming through, I have to say they'd have taken their chances on
Nor, White says,
are recent comparisons with Ohio State star turned NFL washout Maurice Clarett
valid. After missing the 2003 and '04 college seasons, Clarett turned up
overweight at last year's NFL combine and performed poorly. Drafted at the end
of the third round by the Broncos, he hurt his groin in training camp and was
cut after failing to play in any of the team's first three preseason games.
"That's why I
didn't run at pro day," White, 21, says of sitting out most of USC's
star-studded workout session for NFL talent evaluators on April 2 with what was
later revealed to be a partially torn hamstring. "I saw what Maurice
Clarett went through in Denver last year. Maybe if he had been healthy, he
could have been a good pro football player, but he never got a chance to show
it. I'd rather take the loss now than end up doing something that hurts me down
Just how much
White, who isn't expected to resume training until mid-May, lost by not working
out on pro day will be revealed on Saturday, when the draft opens at Radio City
Music Hall. In a reality show otherwise known as How Low Can You Go?, White may
end up reprising the gut-wrenching role played last year by Cal quarterback
Aaron Rodgers, who had been touted as a possible No. 1 pick but fell to the
Packers at No. 24. Once projected to go in the top 10 after rushing for 3,159
yards and a school-record 52 touchdowns in three seasons at USC, White could
slip all the way out of the first round.
obviously a good player, but you get concerned about a guy who doesn't work out
in the spring," says Texans general manager Charley Casserly, whose team is
expected to select White's USC running mate, Reggie Bush, with the No. 1 pick.
"He's had weight fluctuations that he's admitted to, and if a guy isn't in
good shape in the spring, that's a red flag. This isn't college football; this
league requires a higher level of commitment. Plus, for all the talk about
Reggie Bush not having to carry the load in college [he averaged 15.4 rushing
attempts per game as a junior in 2005], White was also a 15-carry-a-game guy.
The bottom line is, there are some questions about him, and you'd like to see
some better answers than what we've seen in the spring."
those comments a few days before an MRI had confirmed White's hamstring injury,
which occurred while he was using a weight machine at the February combine, but
the skepticism surrounding White isn't based solely on missed drills. As
miserable as his pro day showing was--he participated only in the bench press,
completing 15 reps at 225 pounds (one more than Trojans punter Tom Malone, and
nine fewer than Bush), and weighed in at 244, six pounds heavier than he was at
the combine--the way he came off after the event didn't help his reputation
very much either. Following his unspectacular performance, White zoomed off in
a tricked-out Range Rover. One AFC scout, watching the scene, speculated that
the player "might have cost himself millions of dollars today."
White has heard
all that--and worse--from multiple sources, not all of whom are well-placed.
"It's like all of a sudden my life has become US Weekly," he said in
mid-April, while nibbling on a fruit salad at a downtown L.A. restaurant.
"I get phone calls every day telling me I'm going in the third round, that
I've ruined my life, that my mother didn't raise me right. Even the girls I
meet know all about what's being said."
hasn't been all bad. White says he received positive vibes from some of the NFL
coaches he has met since the college season ended, including the Panthers' John
Fox, with whom he had dinner (along with several other team officials) the
night before pro day. Even after he decided not to work out at pro day, White
says Panthers officials remained supportive.
scouts were coming up to me and saying, 'If you're really hurt, why risk it?'
says White. 'We'd rather have you ready for the first minicamp.' The stuff
you're hearing isn't coming from coach [Bill] Parcells's mouth or coach Fox's
mouth. And besides, sometimes people put negative stuff out there just to make
kids fall to their [team's] spot."
The Vikings (17th
pick), Parcells's Cowboys (18th), Carolina (27th), the Jaguars (28th) and the
Steelers (32nd) are among the teams believed to be considering White as a
first-round selection, reasoning that a bruising back who played on a team that
went 37--2 and won two national championships in his three seasons is equipped
to succeed on the next level. But opinions on White's rushing skills even when
he's on top of his game vary among talent evaluators. One NFC scout says White
is "soft for a big guy. He doesn't knock people over, and you can tell he's
not tough because he's not a good blocker. If somebody drafts him in the first
round, they're going to be disappointed." An AFC scout disagrees, however,
saying, "With his size and running style he's what you want in most pro
systems. When the kid's on, he's a beast." Indeed, White--billed as Thunder
to Bush's Lightning--gained 913 of his 1,302 yards last season after initial