IN FOCUS: Devin White
Devin White once quit playing football at the age of eight because he was tired of losing. The star running back on a team with older kids always scored touchdowns, but it was not enough. He wanted to win.
“We always lost badly, and after that one year of playing, I decided I wasn’t going to play football anymore because it wasn’t fun,” White explained. “I wasn’t winning. I didn’t enjoy it, so I strictly focused on basketball.”
At the time, White went to a school that did not have football. The high school football team and pee wee football team had been discontinued, but a family friend, Shaun Houston, who played high school football at Byrd High in Shreveport, La., and went on to play at Northwestern State, decided he was going to start a pee wee football team and was on a mission to round up kids to play.
“Do you want to play football?” Houston asked White.
“No,” White replied immediately shutting down the idea. “I played it a couple of years ago. I tried it before. I didn’t like it. I’m not playing anymore.”
A few weeks later, White was in the gym playing basketball while Houston was having his first practice, attempting to piece together a team while knowing his best athlete was dribbling a ball inside instead of competing out on the gridiron.
Houston made his way inside of the gym and told White, “You have a bright future playing football. You really should give it a try.”
After Houston talked to White’s mother, he was convinced. He went back to the football field. The team began winning, and it became fun again.
It was so much fun that White eventually blossomed into both a running back and linebacker prospect. He was a consensus four-star recruit from North Webster High School in Springhill, La., that had his college decision facing him.
It was LSU or Alabama.
LSU was the last official visit White took. He did not make it to Tuscaloosa.
“It made my decision easy,” White said. “LSU is my home state school, and I always dreamed about playing for the Tigers.”
The next problem ahead for White was what position he was going to play.
After consulting his mother, his mentor Houston and his coaches, he decided to focus on playing linebacker and took the words of his mentor into LSU in January 2016.
“Get with someone who is a successful guy, and let them give you the floor plan of how to be successful,” Houston told White before he left for Baton Rouge.
That successful guy White gravitated toward was Leonard Fournette. White quickly reached out to Fournette to be a “big brother” figure. He was attached at Fournette’s hip, always hanging out with him, talking with him and picking his brain to learn everything he could from him.
White would show up to workouts at 7 a.m., one of the only freshmen at the early- morning workouts because he was an early enrollee and would digest everything that Fournette did.
One day Fournette asked him, “What do you want to accomplish at LSU?”
“I want to be the best linebacker to ever play here,” White responded.
Immediately, Fournette opened up to him and continued to show him how to go about accomplishing his goal.
White did not care about accolades, weekly honors, national awards, LSU records. His only goal was to have fans think that Devin White is the best linebacker to ever play for the Tigers.
However, being the best linebacker in LSU history comes with a leadership responsibility.
During his freshman season in 2016, White took a backseat and observed everything around him, which was nothing close to what he was used to. White was always on the field leading by his actions, but now, he had an opportunity to watch everyone else and see how his teammates took care of business.
He then began watching videos of NFL linebacker Ray Lewis on YouTube, how he talked to people, examining how Lewis was both a vocal leader who backed up his words in the locker room on the field.
In the fall of 2017, White began honing in on his leadership role, but it was not until September 30 that he was tested as a leader of the LSU defense.
After the Tigers fell to Troy on Homecoming, White was embarrassed.
“I was a leader, but I wasn’t a vocal leader,” White explained. “I was a leader by how I was playing. I was out there making plays, but then, I became a vocal leader. I got everyone on the same page with what (LSU) Coach (Ed) Orgeron wanted. I went to Coach O and asked him what he needed and what he felt. Then, we took off.”
He went to practice that Monday after having turned a new page and attempted to bring a swagger to the team.
And then White took off as the “glue guy” of the LSU defense and was named a team captain after becoming in 2017 the first player in Southeastern Conference history to be named the league’s defensive player of the week four times in one season.
In Gainesville after this season’s game at Florida, White took his leadership to another level, standing in front of the entire infuriated locker room after a tough loss.
“I knew a lot of us were going to be mad,” White said. “We were undefeated, No. 5 in the country. Everyone knew that was a game we should have won, but at the end of the day, we couldn’t change what happened.
“We have to hold our heads up,” White told the locker room. “We have another chance to be great again and put ourselves in the position that we want to be in.”
The Tigers went back to work in preparation to face the Georgia Bulldogs but not before White sent an additional text message to members of the defense.
This wasn’t us as a defense as a whole, but this isn’t over. We haven’t hit our peak yet.
“He had such a positive mindset after that loss, but by him making that statement in front of the whole team and texting the defense, everyone knew it wasn’t over. It was going to hurt, but on Monday, we had to have a different mindset. The leadership from Devin White helped us to be successful,” LSU linebacker Michael Divinity said.
The Tigers routed second-ranked Georgia, 36-16, and then returned the next week against Mississippi State with a 19-3 Homecoming win that was inspired by the leadership from White.
White is well on his way to making his mark as the next great linebacker at LSU, matching the likeness of previous linebackers who have made their mark on and off of the field in Baton Rouge.
“I’m only in the middle of my career,” White said. “My career isn’t over yet, and I still have so much more to do for this university. I’m still getting better each week, and I’m going to keep putting out great performances.
“When it’s all said and done, I want to be remembered as a great leader, a hard worker and a humble guy off of the field. I want to be a guy that is remembered after every game, win or lose, taking pictures and signing autographs with everyone because I’m just an all-around LSU guy. I want to be the person who takes the ‘Forever’ in ‘Forever LSU’ because I do everything to make LSU fans love LSU.”