Former Michigan State WR-Blair White Knows What it Is to Earn His Way On To A Team
INDIANAPOLIS – Blair White has been here before.
White, a rookie wide receiver for the Colts, has been overlooked, and he began his collegiate career as a walk-on receiver at Michigan State, very definitely being in a situation where earning playing time – and eventually earning a scholarship – meant having to work to do so.
White not only earned playing time – and the scholarship.
He became one of the Big Ten Conference's most productive receivers this past season, and he said recently he knows he has to restart the process now that he's in the NFL.
He said he's OK with that. And he said in his case, experience can't hurt.
"I kind of know what to expect," said White, a collegiate free-agent signee by the Colts shortly after the 2010 NFL Draft and one of multiple rookies who will be profiled on Colts.com in the coming weeks.
"Obviously, like anyone else I wanted to be drafted, but I wasn't, so it's kind of that walk-on mode again where you need to just work your butt off and give your best effort. That's what I'm here to do.
"I'd probably be doing that even if I got drafted, but it's a situation that's a little different now."
That approach did more than help White make it as a walk-on in college.
It helped him become first a scholarship player, then a leading receiver, then a solid, productive player who many analysts believed earlier this year could be selected in the later rounds of the draft.
White, who lettered four seasons at Michigan State, started his final two seasons, starting 18 of 40 career games and finishing his career with 116 receptions for 1,674 yards and 10 touchdowns. He started 13 games as a senior, leading the team with 70 receptions for 990 yards and nine touchdowns.
He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior and earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in each of his four seasons.
"Blair is a great young man who works for everything he gets academically and athletically," MSU
offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Don Treadwell told the Grand Rapids Press early last season. "His football career truly is a rags-to-riches story."
But throughout the early part of his Michigan State career, success was no guarantee.
He played special teams in 2006, but sustained a back injury and was not initially invited to training camp in 2007. According to media re, he "camped out" at MSU Head Coach Mark Dantonio's office to convince him to give him another chance.
Shortly before the 2008 season, Dantonio awarded White a scholarship.
"Blair White has done everything that he's been asked to do here as a student-athlete: in the classroom, on the field and in the community," Dantonio said in a release late last season. "Blair has always achieved at a high level in the academic arena, and this season, he elevated his game and competed at an All-Big Ten level. He has been a go-to receiver for us all year long, and he's had a number of huge touchdown receptions. Blair is a sure-handed receiver, who runs disciplined routes, so he breeds confidence in our quarterbacks.
"He's been a major contributor on offense the last two years because he plays with such consistency. You can count on Blair to show up on game day."
White, who aspires to be a dentist, said while dental school is in his future, a chance to play in the NFL – and to try to do so with the Colts – is a chance at a dream.
"You walk in and you see names like Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne and Jeff Saturday," White said. "It kind of humbles you a little bit and you come in and you don't say much. You let them do their thing and it's definitely a learning experience, having those guys around me.
"I'm excited to see what they have, because I know what they have obviously wins championships."
What the Colts also do is give rookies an opportunity regardless of draft status or reputation. The franchise has a reputation for being one where collegiate free agents have a chance not only to make a roster but to make major contributions, with cornerback Jacob Lacey, middle linebacker Gary Brackett, safety Melvin Bullitt and defensive tackle Eric Foster among the collegiate free agents who have started games for the Colts over the past two seasons.
That reputation attracted White to the Colts, but he said what mostly attracted him was the chance to play with one of the NFL's premier organizations.
"I just thought that here they have receivers down through four, five or six," he said. "I thought I would have the opportunity to come in here and get in and play and help the Colts out. Obviously, it being a first-rate organization is a plus. I'm just excited to be here of all places. I love it here so far. It's a great atmosphere, so I'm ready to go.
"It's a business. I know that. It's really great to be here. It's a great opportunity."
For White, and for the rest of the Colts' rookies – their eight-member draft class and the 16 collegiate free agents – that opportunity resumes next week, when the team begins its organized team activities. Then, White will begin once again trying to overcome odds and prove he belongs.
"I'm just out here working my butt off, trying to do the best I can, trying to help the Colts," he said. "If the coaches want me, they want me. It's not going to come right away, but it's one of those situations where you just do your best.
"If your best is good enough and people notice you, that's fine. If not, that's another deal on another day."