If you follow Michigan State Spartan football, youâ€™re probably not shocked to hear that potential recruits point to Blair White as inspiration for their own careers.
It doesnâ€™t seem so long ago that White, a former Saginaw Nouvel baseball and football star, came to East Lansing as an unheralded, under-the-radar player. Truth be told, the terms â€œunheraldedâ€ and â€œunder-the-radarâ€ probably donâ€™t do Whiteâ€™s story much justice.
Those who closely followed prep football in Michigan knew about White, likely figuring he was an above-average player that could excel in perhaps the Mid-American Conference, or similar league. Playing football collegiately â€“ at least in the Big Ten â€“ wasnâ€™t on the horizon for White, at least, thatâ€™s what many thought.
If youâ€™re one of those folks, donâ€™t worry, you werenâ€™t alone. And eating a slice of humble pie is probably in order, because White certainly left his mark on the Spartans football program.
Not only did White walk on to Coach Mark Dantonioâ€™s team, but he became a fan favorite and one of the Spartansâ€™ top receivers in recent memory. The story of hard work, dedication and never-say-die attitude is what initially established his reputation in East Lansing, but his actions sealed his legacy.
Perhaps Whitesâ€™ affinity for the gridiron is what pushed him along. After all, heâ€™s often said he adores the sport and is thankful for the chance he earned â€“ not was given â€“ at Michigan State.
His big-play abilities were widely showcased â€“ remember that 38-yard hook and ladder play against Iowa in 2009? â€” and Whiteâ€™s sure-handedness landed him in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, catching passes from one of the gameâ€™s all-time greats in quarterback Peyton Manning.
During a recent interview with Spartan Nation Radio, a quote from after the 2007 Capital One Bowl from White was read on-air. To this day, it rings true â€“ a testament to his character.Â Â â€œ â€˜I hope I never, ever lose the excitement for playing the game of football that I have right now,â€™ â€ Whiteâ€™s quote as spoken by Spartan Nation Radio host Hondo Carpenter. â€œ â€˜I donâ€™t care what I do, I want each time I suit up to be special. I canâ€™t believe I get to play this game at Michigan State.â€™ â€œ
White paused for a moment, and was then asked if he still feels the same excitement for football now that heâ€™s a professional.
â€œThereâ€™s always going to be that passion for the game, at least from my perspective,â€ said White. Granted, the scenery and faces have changed. Instead of catching bullets from former MSU signal-caller Brian Hoyer, Whiteâ€™s corralling them in from Manning. Contending with All-Big Ten corners and safeties are a thing of the past, because today heâ€™s matching wits against all-league caliber talents in the NFL on a weekly basis.
â€œThe passion to play and be competitive is what I love,â€ said White. â€œIâ€™ll always be like that until the day I die.â€
And those words are probably enough for recruits to analyze their own situations â€“ to single out a player they share a bond with and want to be like. Itâ€™s common in athletics for younger athletes to emulate older athletes they respect. Itâ€™s a cycle that inspires new generations of greatness.
White was read a quote from an incoming SpartanÂ that was full of praise, saying Whiteâ€™s story is an inspiration. Now, thatâ€™s respect in one of the highest forms, and the young man even addressed White as â€œMr. White.â€Â White was honored by the praise and said he wants to set a good example.
â€œItâ€™s important for us to be positive role models and do the right thing,â€ he said, mentioning fellow former MSU walk-on Eric Smith, who plays for the New York Jets and took a similar road to the NFL as White.
White proved a player doesnâ€™t have to be a five-star stud from a powerhouse prep program to succeed in the college ranks. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound wideout wasnâ€™t the biggest, fastest, most athletic guy on the field. But by watching White play, it was evident he had something that even the so-called, predetermined â€œstarsâ€ didnâ€™tâ€¦
A will and one helluva way.
â€œI came from a group of walk-ons, I guess, if you want to put it bluntly,â€ said White in reference to his persistent quality. â€œNot that many people get that shot.â€
Had he not made the roster at Michigan State, White would have likely become a dentist, which was one of his goals. He said he would have been OK with it, knowing he gave his all.Â Â â€œIf you do that, and still donâ€™t make it â€“ what the heckâ€¦ itâ€™s all about trying your hardest,â€ he said. â€œI think at the end of the day, if you do that, you feel good about everything.â€
Spartan Nation Did You Know?
White snagged 36 receptions for 355 yards and five touchdowns last season as a rookie with Indianapolis. He caught 24 passes for first downs and played in 13 games.
White finished his career with 116 receptions (12th most in school history), including 10 touchdown grabs (15th all-time).
He was All-Big Ten, as voted by league coaches, in 2009 as a senior.