Wide Receiver Blair White Emerged as a Key Part of the Colts' Offense as a Rookie
INDIANAPOLIS – Whatever the results, Blair White said the approach was the same.
And around the Colts, the approach is expected.
White, a rookie wide receiver for the Colts this past season, said one reason the team is able to get production year after year from backups and lesser-known players is it doesn't really matter who the player is, or what position he plays, the same thing is expected.
The player must be ready – whatever the situation. He must be ready to play.
But more specifically, White said the player must be ready to play well.
And make no mistake:
White this season? Far more often than not, he played very, very well.
"It's just a matter of preparing as a – say, a Dallas Clark – would prepare," White said late in the 2010 season, a season in which the Colts won a seventh AFC South title in eight seasons and a season on which Colts.com will look back in the coming weeks.
This season, that's what White did, helping personify the Colts' Next Man Up approach.
And White and teammates said because he did, it made no difference that White last off-season wasn't among the players selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, just as it made no difference that when the 2010 season began, he wasn't on the Colts' 53-man roster.
Colts officials told White upon his release just before the regular season to be ready, that it was likely – even probable – he would return, and that when he did, he would be asked to contribute.
That's precisely what happened.
With the wide receiver corps hit by injuries – including season-ending issues involving fourth-year veteran Anthony Gonzalez and second-year wide receiver Austin Collie – White just didn't contribute, he played a critical role in an offense that remained one of the NFL's most-productive units despite a multitude of injuries.
"Blair White has come on and played exceptionally well," Colts President Bill Polian said late in the season. "That's a real plus."
White, who played collegiately at Michigan State, started four games for the Colts this past season, playing 13 and catching 36 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns.
"I felt like I got a little better every week," White said.
White, as was the case with Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett, not only made the NFL as an undrafted free agent, he made it after making his college team as a walk-on.
"I do think it has a lot to do with their determination and will and willingness to take a bit of a chance," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said during the season. "To have to face some hardships and some difficulty and be able to function within that realm – I think all those things do indeed help."
As White improved – and as he continued to contribute – he said he continued to not only gain confidence, but he increasingly realized playing in the NFL was no longer a dream as much as a reality.
Where once there may have been the slightest of doubt, White said there became a more firm idea of what needed to be done to contribute, and to improve.
"That's natural, I think," White said. "Anytime, you're in there, you're gaining confidence. I think you would be silly to say you went in there the first day and knew you could play with the best of them. I don't think that's true, but the more you get in there, the more you do, and the more you're comfortable with it, your confidence level keeps rising."
The higher that level, White said, the bigger the chance for success.
"At this level, I think most of the guys are pretty talented, but when you have that confidence level and that swagger, it really helps," White said. "It's kind of reassuring to know that, yeah, you can get better. While you're doing that, you just feel a lot better about going out there and knowing you can make plays."
White said while it was true that he improved during his rookie season, he said the bigger truth is more improvement must be made moving forward. The belief around the Colts' organization – and throughout much of the NFL – is that a player makes dramatic improvement between Year One and Year Two.
White said given the experience of his rookie season, that trend is understandable, and he said the imant step now is working to ensure it's true for him.
"I still feel like I have a long ways to go," White said. "I've come a long way since training camp, and being around guys like (quarterback) Peyton (Manning) and (wide receiver) Reggie (Wayne) and guys like that, you can only get better. To see the improvement I made from Week One and Week Two to now is night and day, but I think going through the off-season is going to be absolutely crucial.
"I'll make strides that I never knew I could make, hopefully, and we'll see where it takes us."
If making those strides takes work, and being as prepared as possible as consistently as possible, White said that's something he experienced this past season, a season in which he not only improved each week, but helped personify the Colts' approach to the 2010 season.
It's an approach in which White said he believes, and one that helped him emerge as an effective player despite relatively humble NFL beginnings.
"Guys like Dallas and other veterans obviously have been here longer, but you just have to kind of focus on getting better, and making plays," White said. "If you can stay focused on the little things, I think the big things kind of take care of themselves."