Antoine White lives in New Jersey. He plays football – defensive tackle, specifically – for Millville Senior High School, located 40 miles from the state’s southernmost tip, which washes into the Delaware Bay.
He wakes up early for school, attends class then trains after the final bell. Several nights a week, for five hours a shift before homework and bed, White arrives at Taste of Italy in nearby Vineland. “You can compare our prices,” the restaurant’s Web site reads, “but you can’t compare our quality.” There, the Division I recruit with eight scholarship offers steps into the kitchen and begins making pizza.
Kneading dough and slathering sauce helps White avoid trouble, he says. He drives a car now, and paychecks become gas money. It’s 11:02 p.m. on a Tuesday when White calls, off his shift and done with homework, the tasks completed in that order. Some colleagues can spin dough behind their backs, tossing it skyward like a malleable UFO. White’s process is more straightforward. Plop the dough onto your fist and stretch it out. He’s a no-frills kind of cook, except when it comes to toppings. White sauce with cheese, buffalo sauce and chicken tenders are a specialty.
White enjoys working at Taste of Italy, except consciously limiting personal pizza intake and the mounds of schoolwork awaiting at home. Keeping track of the endless papers and readings and worksheets from teachers is hard enough. But White, a three-star prospect according to 247sports.com, also boasts seven Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers. Duke recently offered. So did Michigan State. North Carolina is close. Penn State could be next. The Nittany Lions visited Wednesday.
Roughly 10 letters flood his mailbox each afternoon, to say nothing of his Facebook messages or Twitter account. Sometimes coaches just want to chat. “Give me a buzz next week,” they read. Except White has twice missed calls after forgetting to open handwritten mail. Sometimes the piles climb too high.
White received his Maryland offer in February. Wide receivers coach Lee Hull hails from Vineland, where he was honorable mention all-state for the Fighting Clan. Defensive line coach Greg Gattuso reaches out frequently too. The Terrapins, White said, are high on his list.
He’s a teenager blessed with perspective on an often dizzying recruitment process. He chats with Dwayne Hendricks, a Millville Senior alumnus who plays for the New York Giants, about how recruiting changed over the years. Ten years ago, when letters began arriving in Hendricks’s mailbox, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist.
Today, White can count seven different ways coaches can communicate with prospective players: Facebook, Twitter, mail, e-mail, text messages, phone calls and a new recruiting-specific social media Web site called Signing Day.
“Now you touch a button, and every college in the country has your highlights,” White said. “I’ve definitely come to terms with that. I don’t try to get caught up in the big picture. I just try to enjoy the ride.”
White won’t force the issue. What if he commits one day, then another program offers the next? Besides, White wants a “completely clean process.” If he commits to Maryland and Michigan calls tomorrow, he wants to say, “Nope, sorry. I’m going to Maryland.”
Eventually, White said, recruitment’s iridescence might fade. When the process accelerates, White has a plan. He’ll limit phone calls to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, dedicating the rest of the week to schoolwork and training. For now though, while the feelings are still fresh, he enjoys the process and attention.
White stands 6 feet 3 and weighs 265 pounds. He sacked opponents six times last fall and tackled eight more for a loss. The Terps have recruited just four total defensive linemen in the past two years. White knows he can make an impact, maybe immediately. Academically, he receives As and Bs at Millville Senior, with the rare C tossed into the mix. He likes Maryland’s profile, specifically the criminal justice program.
He’ll be a football-playing, pizza-making crime fighter.
“Yeah,” he said, “something like that.”