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The Saints jersey has its spot, but there were other stops with other teams, too, so many that White sometimes is confused about what order the teams came in and who the coach was. Everywhere it was the same, though. White never played in a regular-season game, always stopped by a freakish injury, a newly signed player, or even one extended battle with the staph infection known as MRSA. After that, White asked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to allocate him to N.F.L. Europe, now defunct, hoping it would help him get back into shape. White was a journeyman backup and practice squad player, on perhaps the most anonymous rung in the N.F.L. player hierarchy, trying to hang on to his career.
Now, seven years and one crushing hit later, he is one of the more than 3,000 former N.F.L. players who are suing the league over concussions. At 34, White is unable to work and is sometimes so debilitated by migraines that he cannot care for his two young daughters. He takes as many as eight medications at a time to ease his headaches, to smooth his erratic moods, to soothe his sleeplessness. He spends much of his time exploring treatments to find relief that rarely lasts longer than a few days: Botox injections, massage, sensory deprivation. White and perhaps just a few hundred plaintiffs like him did not enjoy much of the glory or the riches that playing on Sundays usually bring. But they suffered the damage that they believe is the N.F.L.’s calling card, too. In White’s case, it was one hit at an N.F.L. Europe training camp in March 2005, when a blitzing middle linebacker crashed into the right side of White’s head as White was pulling from his right tackle position. That sent him tumbling to the grass, knocking him out for a few moments and altering him so ineffably that his mother said, “When he first came home, it was like my son was gone.” To see White now is to get a glimpse of the challenges of living with the effects of a head injury. He looks healthy, back down to his high school weight of 245 pounds, down from his high N.F.L. weight of 335. He and his family live in a comfortable house with a big portrait of their daughters on a mantle, in a well-maintained subdivision. This was a good day, his wife, Jennifer, said, meaning he got some sleep and had restrained himself from physical activity enough — a workout at the gym can set him back for three days. The headache, while there from the moment he woke up, was at least tolerable until midafternoon. But after 90 minutes of talking, White’s energy waned. His speech became more deliberate. Sitting on his sofa, he shaded his eyes from the overhead lights in his living room. He gets lost if he drives more than a few miles from home. The Whites were recently out to dinner with friends, and after two hours, White said he could not talk or think normally. When they have plans, White said, he will load up on medication and try to get through it. Or they will simply cancel. He used to be really funny, he has told his wife. He misses that, she said. “I try to act normal,” White said. “I just want to be normal.” White did not start playing football until he was 16 as a high school sophomore, and he does not remember sustaining any concussions in high school or college. The hit that injured him, White said, was not even the hardest one he had ever taken, although he thought his helmet was not inflated properly. “I tried to stand up, and fell over — I did that like twice,” White said, sitting in his living room, which is usually kept cool and dark because heat and light can make his headaches worse. “A lot of people have told me — I don’t remember like two or three days after that — I guess I walked up to the huddle, I thought I was in the huddle, but I was three feet behind the huddle. “All I remember is I went back in. I just remember being in my stance and trying to lift my head up, and it was excruciating.” White’s odyssey through postconcussion life winds through doctors and hotel rooms, starting first in Tampa, Fla., when he was given Tylenol and Advil for his relentless headache, but still told to go to meetings and watch practice the next day. The nadir came during three months in Birmingham, Ala., where players with longer-term injuries were sent. One doctor told him he had a mild concussion and should be ready to go in another week or so. But he could not sleep. He was made to run at one point, and ended up vomiting. He spent most of his time alone, in a dark hotel room.
If Jay Hopson was not white, his hiring as Alcorn State’s football coach on Monday would have brought up questions about the fall of a once-proud program and about what went so wrong at Hopson’s last job, as defensive coordinator at the University of Memphis. After all, Alcorn State is reeling from a chaotic, 2-8 season and a long slog in mediocrity. And Hopson was last seen resigning after the Tigers gave up 106 points in their first two games and he was about to be reassigned.
But because Hopson is white, his race became the central issue in his hiring by Alcorn State, which is a historically black college in Lorman, Miss. According to the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Hopson is the first non-black head football coach in the conference’s history.
“I don’t see white or black,” Hopson told reporters at his introductory news conference on Tuesday. “We’re purple and gold.”
For Hopson, who is from Vicksburg, Miss., the job is a chance to come home and build a program. He has been an assistant at nine different colleges since he graduated from Delta State in Cleveland, Miss., including Ole Miss and Michigan. He left Michigan in 2009 to become defensive coordinator under Larry Porter at Memphis, a job that ended disastrously with the Tigers’ horrendous start last September. He resigned when Porter told him he would be reassigned.
Things haven’t gone particularly smoothly for Alcorn State lately either. The program never reached the heights it saw in the early 1990s, when Steve McNair was setting records as the Braves quarterback before moving on to his extraordinary N.F.L. career. Their best season since then was going 7-5 in 2003.
In 2011, the school hired former Grambling State Coach Melvin Spears, only to dissolve into chaos. Spears not only went 2-8, but a number of incidents led the alumni association to call for his firing. One of those was a former player’s father accusing Spears of threatening him, which Spears denied. Spears later threw quarterback Brandon Bridge off the team. The season ended in a 51-7 loss to Jackson State and the school placed Spears on administrative leave in December.
Hopson, 43, wasn’t entirely sure he wanted the job, at one point pulling himself from consideration. But Alcorn State President Christopher Brown talked him into accepting the position.
So Hopson was introduced Tuesday by Brown, who said, “Today’s historical appointment will require us to walk hand in hand to disrupt naysayers wedded to a racist past.”
“It was a great process, Jay came out on top of the pool every step of the way. There was never any question about his ability to coach, or his ability to fit the criteria for the job. The question was if Alcorn was ready to meet the challenge of hiring a different kind of coach, and we absolutely were.”
After the Spears experience, Alcorn was clearly ready for any kind of change. Hopson was greeted warmly by the school community when he was named on Monday, circulating at Brown’s backyard barbecue.
Zelmarinn Murphy, a 1966 graduate of Alcorn, told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., “I am ecstatic. I watched Jay grow up.
“We were looking for someone to carry us to the next level. We think he has the contacts and the ability to do that.”
Hopson said at his introductory news conference that coming home was a big appeal.
“I’m very excited and thrilled. Its a home to me, and many dear friends of mine are Alcornites,” Hopson said. “I’m looking forward to laying a foundation for the future. We’ll win when we deserve to win. I’ll see what we have on campus and determine what we have on practice field and in the weight room. I’m a little bit blind where we are going in. We’ll get better as the year goes on.”
The injured Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks delivered some encouraging news Thursday when he told reporters that he planned to rejoin the team next week.
Nicks plans to be with the team when it visits the White House on June 8, though the timetable for his return to football activities remains fluid. Nicks is confident, however, that he will be recovered from his broken foot in time to play in the Giants’ season-opening game Sept. 5 against the Dallas Cowboys.
“I don’t have any doubt,” he said in a conference call with reporters.
Nicks, who had surgery last Friday to repair the fifth metatarsal in his right foot, which he fractured May 24, is in a walking boot. He said he was “walking around pretty good.” The Giants have said the rough timetable for his recovery is 12 weeks, and while doctors told Nicks that he could come back as soon as four weeks after the injury, he plans to adhere to the team’s protocol. He is proceeding as if he will be able to take part, in some fashion, in the Giants’ training camp, which begins July 26.
“That’s my mentality,” he told reporters. “I like having that mentality. Obviously, if I feel something when I’m running, I’m going to listen to my body. I’m going to be smart.”
Nicks is still at home in Charlotte, N.C. He said he was generally a fast healer. He plans to help with some of the team’s younger receivers after he travels to New York next week. Then comes the team’s visit with President Obama and soon enough Nicks hopes to be back to full participation.
“My first day, I’m not going to jump in and do the whole practice,” he said. “I’m going to work my way into it, into a full practice. Our trainers do a good job of working me back into it.”
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RCW Pictures, LLC www.RCWpictures.com Produced, Directed, and shot by: Richard Cameron White Director of Photography: Ryan Hase 1st AD Sound: Ryan Bradley Edited by: Nick Ruff Music by: Jaysen A. Lewis and Cody James Produced as promotional material for 360 Sports Academy. Featuring: The best high school football players in the country, Ray Lewis, Dominic Rhodes, and more. Let me know what you think! Thanks for watching. – Cam Next project: thesleepingbearmovie.com facebook.comTheSleepingBear (please join our FB page! We just began production and are doing daily updates)
His name is John White. His name isn’t flashy, even if you add the “IV” to the end of it to distinguish him from his pop, who is known as John White III. But John White is going to get your defense. You know he’s coming. You’ve schemed him up. You’ve stacked the box. But John White is going to get you.
And there’s not really anything you can do about it.
Utah has won five of six and four in a row and — after an 0-4 start in Pac-12 play — has a decent chance of winning the Pac-12 South Division. It needs to beat Colorado (likely) on Friday and hope Arizona State loses to California (possible) and UCLA loses to USC (likely).
What has been the key to the turnaround? John White.
[+] Enlarge Chris Morrison/US PresswireUtah is 7-0 this season when running back John White rushes for more than 100 yards.”He was a one-man show in the Pittsburgh game,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “That was probably when we said, ‘Hey, this guy is special. He’s going to be our guy’… The blueprint for us to win a football game is to feed him the ball a bunch of times and not turn it over.”
Let’s quantify that. During those five wins, White averaged 34.6 carries. He’s a first-year junior-college transfer. He’s hardly more seasoned than a freshman. He’s just 5-foot-8, 186 pounds. He’s not exactly Earl Campbell. And yet he’s carried the ball 280 times this year, 39 more times than anyone else. Oregon running back LaMichael James led the Pac-10 with 294 carries last year. White is almost certain to exceed 300 before a bowl game.
White had 36 carries for 171 yards against Pittsburgh. The Utes passed for 127 yards. He had 205 yards on 35 carries against Oregon State. The Utes passed for 62 yards. He had 42 carries for 186 yards against Washington State. The Utes passed for 172 yards.
Get the point? Since starting QB Jordan Wynn went down, the Utes’ offense has taken an extremely conservative approach. The Utes rank last in the Pac-12 and 101st in the nation in passing yards per game with 170.4.
It’s been about John White left, John White right, John White up the middle. Repeat. And it’s worked. The Utes are 7-0 when White eclipses 100 yards rushing, 0-4 when he doesn’t.
Meanwhile, White is re-writing the Utes record book. His 14 rushing TDs already has tied a team record. He’s rushed for 1,377 yards — his 125.2 yards per game ranks eighth in the nation — and needs 131 yards to set the single-season school rushing mark, breaking Carl Monroe’s record of 1,507 set in 1982.
White was a solid prospect out of South Torrance (Calif.) High. He was heavily recruited by Oregon before going to L.A. Harbor College because he didn’t qualify academically. A bevy of programs from across the country pursued him after he rushed for 1,491 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry for L.A. Harbor, earning Central West Conference Offensive Player of the Year. But few expected White to immediately become a candidate for first-team All-Pac-12.
And that includes White, who’s as understated as his name.
“I am surprised, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I came out of spring kind of iffy.”
He’s iffy no longer. UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said White was the best running back the Bruins faced (33 carries, 167 yards, 2 TDs). While James and Washington’s Chris Polk are the conference’s best known backs, White has made as big, if not bigger, an impact without the supporting cast those two have.
“He’s not a real big guy but he is tough and he’s got great quickness,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “What really separated him as a good runner is his great vision.”
And toughness. Said Whittingham, “He is one of the mentally toughest and physically toughest players I’ve ever coached.”
That’s because he faces defenses geared to stop him — eight, nine and sometimes 10 guys packed along the line of scrimmage. Sometimes they do. But he almost always gets away at least once. In nine of 12 games this season, he has produced at least one run of 18 or more yards. In five games, he’s produced at least one run of 30 or more yards.
Whittingham, a longtime defensive coach and coordinator before taking over the Utes, said it’s “demoralizing” for a defense when it knows what’s coming but can’t stop it.
“If you load the box and people are just knocking you off the ball, it’s a feeling of helplessness,” he said.
So White’s name isn’t fancy like God Shammgod or Leonidas Thermopylae or World B. Free. But you’re going to know it. Because you’re going to hear it over and over again.
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TOP PERFORMERSA. Carder W Michigan - QB38-59, 548 yds, 7 tds@ TOL | FinalA. Thomas Toledo - RB30 car, 216 yds, 2 tdsvs WMU | FinalJ. White W Michigan - WR16 rec, 238 yds, 3 tds@ TOL | Final
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