West Virginia WR White selected by Bears
A challenging personal journey and one brilliant season at West Virginia landed big-play receiver Kevin White in the upper reaches of the NFL Draft on Thursday night in Chicago.
By coincidence, that city will be his new home after the Bears took White with the seventh pick. The selection produced loud cheers of approval from fans gathered at the Auditorium Theater.
No WVU player had been drafted as high since Adam Jones went sixth in 2005.
“I’ve been through so much,” an exuberant White, wearing a cream-colored suit with a checked vest, said on ESPN after the obligatory hug with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell . “I’ve wanted this all my life. I’m finally here, and I’m ready to turn this city around.”
White was the only player from a district college taken in the first round.
White told reporters Wednesday he had a feeling the Bears would take him to replace Brandon Marshall, who was traded to the Jets.
Relatively inexperienced, White impressed teams with his strength, size (6-foot-2, 215-pounds), speed (4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash), hands and leaping ability.
He also apparently made a good impression off the field. Former Giants running back Tiki Barber, who co-hosts a radio program on the CBS Sports Network, tweeted he was “a bigger fan” of White after interviewing him.
ESPN analyst and former Steelers safety Ryan Clark tweeted, “Dude will be great for TV one day!! I know I was nowhere that good of an interview at 22.”
Not long ago it was hard for anyone, including White, to imagine him living in this moment. With poor grades and underdeveloped talent, he was ignored by Division I programs coming out of Emmaus High School near Allentown. He enrolled at Lackawanna (junior) College in Scranton, redshirting his first season. Ready to play the next year, he had to leave school after a financial aid snafu.
Dejected, White considered quitting football altogether but regrouped, worked hard and played well, earning a scholarship offer to WVU. But quarterback issues and his own inconsistencies impeded White during his first season in 2013, as the Mountaineers went 4-8 overall, 2-7 in the Big 12.
“My junior year, I put bad film out there,” he told reporters at the NFL Combine in February. “That’s not the kind of receiver, the kind of player I am. Going into my senior year I put everything on the line. … It finally clicked.”
As WVU started 6-2, losing only to highly-ranked Alabama and Oklahoma, White broke out in 2014, teaming with quarterback Clint Trickett to form a dynamic passing combination.
White exceeded 100 receiving yards in each of the first seven games, finishing with 109 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had a penchant for drawing pass interference penalties. Then at the combine, he helped himself immeasurably.
“This is a great night for not only Kevin but for the West Virginia football program,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said in a statement. “Kevin has worked extremely hard and dedicated himself to become one of the best receivers in the country and a first-round NFL draft pick. I continue to say that he has a huge upside and will have a great NFL career.”
Wearing No. 11 with dreadlocks spilling from his helmet, White not only physically resembled former Pitt star and All-Pro Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, he often played like him, too. The two became friends, with White referring to Fitzgerald as “kind of like my mentor.”
“I don’t feel like any receiver can do what I can do,” White, a New Jersey native, said at the Combine. “I do it all. Not saying that to be cocky, just confident. I feel like I’m one of a kind.”