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May 3, 2011Chris White's draft story probably couldn't be more fitting given his past. On Thursday night, college football's stars from the past years were in New York under the big lights at Radio City Music Hall.
On Saturday, in the middle of the sixth round, White, the 246-pound, Conerly Trophy award-winning linebacker, was swimming in his grandmother's pool wondering if he would be drafted.
He didn't have to wait much longer.
"I've really been watching the draft," White said. "I actually just jumped in the swimming pool for about 30 seconds. Then I got a phone call and my Grandma handed me the phone. It was a number I didn't know and I said 'Thank God.'"
It was the Buffalo Bills. He'd been drafted.
For White, falling to the sixth round was nothing new. He's been overlooked his whole life.
"I've always been underrated," White said. "Coming out of high school I didn't have any scholarships. And coming out of junior college there weren't really many scholarships. This NFL process, not many people gave me a chance. I'm just excited to come to Buffalo and just try to make the roster."
Perhaps it is fitting that White attended Mississippi State University - a land grant institution, the "People's University." It seems only appropriate that White ended up with the small-market, family-friendly Buffalo Bills
After all, White is from a blue-collar town in Vancleave, Miss. His career in high school, however, was anything but.
He started four years at linebacker for the Vancleave Bulldogs, an impressive feat on it's own to start as a freshman. In those four years, he racked up 267 tackles, with 20 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, eight fumble recoveries and a pair of pass interceptions, one he returned for touchdown.
In his senior year, he was named both the defensive and offensive MVP, having also rushed for 604 yards and 10 touchdowns as a running back.
White stated the obvious, saying, "I went to a small school. Our school really isn't highly recruited. I felt like I had a pretty good senior season but I didn't get highly recruited. I went the junior college route which ended up being a good thing for me. It just always seems like I'm under-recruited."
Staying near home at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College turned out pretty well for White. After his sophomore year he was named first-team All-America by the National Junior College Athletic Association.
However, White still only had two "big" offers - MSU and South Florida. While it seemed many schools questioned if he could make it in D-I football, White never did.
"I kind of had in the back of my head the whole time when I was at junior college that I could," White said. "I really didn't talk about it a lot but I knew I wanted to go to - not necessarily at an SEC school - but I knew it was Division I somewhere. I just had to wait on the scholarship to come."
Two years later, White had proven he could play big-time college football, leading the MSU defense through the SEC West his senior year. Then, the doubters came again.
When White talked to the Bills at the Senior Bowl, they didn't exactly tell him he was their No. 1 guy.
"They really didn't give too much feedback," White said. "It was kind of a fast week. They said play as hard as you can and talked about special teams a lot whenever I come into the NFL, and I might have to play that just to make a roster."
It turns out, though, Buffalo was interested in White. While admitting he had initial doubts, Bills head coach Chan Gailey said he and GM Buddy Nix felt they had inside info on White from one of his coaches at MGCCC.
"We had great reports on him," Gailey said. "Both of us know the guy he played for in junior college, so we had some insider information so to speak there. And we knew what this guy was made of and knew that he did have some of those natural instincts you could see on film. But to hear another coach say it helps you."
White said he likes Gailey and Nix, too, saying he got to spend some time with them at the Senior Bowl. White said Gailey "seems like a real cool head coach." He also go to meet his linebackers coach, and he said the whole organization has "a work hard first [mentality] and want to win."
Now that he's on the team, White said he knows one of his strengths is identifying whether a play is going to be a pass or a run. He said it's just natural to him, and it is something Bills scouts were quick tp point out.
White knows he will have to spend a lot of time on special teams, but Gailey is excited about the prospect of getting him on the field with the defense as an inside linebacker.
"We're going to start him inside," Gailey said. "We think he's an inside guy. He's got some natural instincts. That's probably one of things that are to his advantage. He has natural instincts playing inside there."
The kind of person White is, he doesn't care where he plays, so long as he plays. However, he does think he can do it all in Buffalo.
"I played both MIKE and WILL and got the job done at both positions," White said. "Whatever position they want me to play, and I know I'm going to come in there and have to play special teams which I'm okay with that. Just come in there, work hard and just try to get better every day."