Henning said: “When he came back for the second year, I don’t know what his fiscal situation was. I don’t know what his personal situation was. Maybe, like he said, he was not as focused. But he wasn’t as interested as he was that first year. He got a little lackadaisical about football. . . . We let him go. I wasn’t necessarily in favor of that.”
White, a two-sport star who’d once been selected in the fourth round of the baseball draft, signed with the Kansas City Royals and played in the fall instructional league. He had a football stint with the United Football League’s Virginia Destroyers in 2011 but was cut. He took acting classes and tried to help a friend start a music career. He was invited to spring training this year by baseball’s Miami Marlins. But White also was drawing interest from the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos and decided to try to return to football.
“I had to follow my heart at the end of the day,” White said this week at the Redskins’ training camp facility in Richmond, “and it brought me back here.”
He’d gone to the Senior Bowl to speak to NFL scouts. He trained in San Diego with quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr.
“He told me he had some baseball opportunities,” Whitfield said by phone Tuesday. “But it was football, period, and whatever happened after that happened.”
Whitfield said his first reaction upon meeting White, who is listed at 6 feet and 190 pounds, was to marvel at how a quarterback of such slight build did so many big things in college. “This is the guy,” Whitfield recalled asking himself, “who threw for all those yards and did all those things at West Virginia?”
But Whitfield said he soon was struck by White’s humility. Whitfield had some initial reservations about mixing White with a class of younger, draft-eligible quarterbacks. But White, he said, became a teacher as well as a student. He stayed in San Diego for close to three months. He showed up to throw even on scheduled days off and, according to Whitfield, worked diligently on his fundamentals.
“All superheroes — and you look at what he did at West Virginia, and that’s what he was — need to acquire an engineering degree at some point,” Whitfield said.
White threw for NFL talent evaluators at the pro days of West Virginia and Virginia Tech. The San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants were among the teams to demonstrate interest, but White signed with the Redskins.
“I felt like they were the most willing to give me the opportunity,” White said. “It’s definitely a blessing that I have this opportunity. And I hope to make the most of it.”
Henning said he once called a former coaching associate who was in Denver to urge the Broncos to sign White to back up Tim Tebow. There is a place in the league for a quarterback like White, Henning argues.
“I don’t know that he is a starting quarterback,” Henning said. “But those guys who do what Pat White does and what Tim Tebow does, they’re very valuable. . . . That’s a very effective weapon to have.”
Now White is attempting to prove he belongs.
“It’s definitely good to get out there,” White said, “and, I guess, perform, help the team to get a victory. [But] I’ve got a long way to go. . . . I’ve still got a long hill to climb.”