Ex-WVU QB White hoping to catch on again in NFL
By John Harris
Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013, 11:44 p.m.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Former West Virginia standout quarterback Pat White was “just following my heart” when he decided to give football another try after abruptly leaving the sport.
White's new outlook earned him a tryout last week with the Super Bowl XLVII runner-up San Francisco 49ers.
“I tried to run from myself,” said White, a second-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins who threw for 6,051 yards and 56 touchdowns and rushed for 4,480 yards and 47 touchdowns with the Mountaineers. “I had nowhere to go, and my heart brought me back to football.”
White signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals following his NFL stint. When baseball didn't work out, he considered a return to football after receiving a contract offer from Edmonton in the CFL.
White's comeback efforts motivated him to participate at West Virginia's pro day March 14.
“I thought I did pretty well,” White said. “Hopefully somebody saw something they like.”
Performing in front of 10 of the 29 NFL teams in attendance, White was contacted by San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh.
The 49ers, who need a quarterback behind starter Colin Kaepernick after trading Alex Smith to Kansas City, could be a potential landing spot.
“When I was with the Dolphins, I selfishly tried to walk away from the game, which, in turn, got me cut because of factors that affected me outside the field,” White said, who reportedly could work out for the New York Giants this week. “I let that affect what I did on the field, and it showed.”
White's ability to excel as a passer and runner encouraged former Dolphins executive Bill Parcells to select him with the 44th pick in the 2009 draft.
White played little as a rookie, going 0 for 5 as a passer and rushing 21 times for 81 yards.
He didn't endear himself to Parcells, who said drafting White was a mistake.
White indicated a head injury he suffered after a hard tackle by Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor in the final regular-season game “played a part in me questioning myself, not believing.” He was released prior to the 2010 season.
Parcells' explanation for drafting White — voted MVP in three straight bowl games at West Virginia — was that he could operate the wildcat offense, which requires a quarterback who can pass and run.
“It was a deviation from your principles,” Parcells said. “He was not prototypical.”
During White's absence from football, NFL teams replaced the wildcat with the read-option as the pro game evolved into more of a college look.
Utilized by the 49ers, the read-option requires a mobile quarterback to be successful.
White said he is comfortable playing the read-option.
“People said I was ahead of my time. Let's just say I wasn't patient enough for my time,” White said. “I feel I can play in any system. Dropback, read-option, it doesn't matter.”
White credits quarterback guru George Whitfield — whose client list includes the Steelers' Ben Roethlisbeger and West Virginia's Geno Smith — for making his comeback easier.
“(Whitfield) was saying I'm a 195-pound quarterback (actually he's 205) throwing like I'm about 215,” White said. “That was motivation. My footwork's still where it needs to be.”
More importantly, White said he's never felt better mentally.
“I couldn't watch football for about two years — two of the hardest years of my life,” White said. “I know the first time I turned on the TV and was able to watch a game, that passion was still there, that fire was still there.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.
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