A special shout out to Scott Hutchison, my high school athletic director, and Loris Shisler, the HHS boosters club president. They were great to me in a lot of ways, but one way that was unique and special was back in the summer of 2015.
In order to boost their already exalted status in the New England community, the Patriots have their players engage in some basketball games against community teams and draw people in for the event. An annual tradition in Hanover, I arrived at the game as spectator hoping to grab some autographs at halftime like I have in the past. Yet as a thank you for being an intern and announcer for the two aforementioned people, who were also coordinating the game, I was offered a chance to play in the game.
To play against the New England Patriots. In basketball. The Pats don’t usually bring their A team. Laurence Maroney was there once and it was a big deal. Dont’a Hightower, Jaimie Collins, Trey Flower, Chandler Jones, Gronk and even Aaron Hernandez all came through as rookie or early career players before they became somebodies. But typically, it’s the ancillary guys. One regular has been James White.
James White meant nothing to me. I was far more excited for team radio broadcaster and crazy man Scott Zolak. I didn’t even know if White would be on the team next year; he barely played.
My highlight of that entire event is catching a pass down low just off the far block with James White attached to me. Without moving my body, I probably dribbled once or twice, leaned in and flicked an over the head righty hook that I can hit from time to time. Splash. I scored with James White, NFL running back, playing post defense on me.
Because of course I did. It was James White. In a lot of ways, it was really cool. But really, it wasn’t. Scoring against Gronk is cool. Telling someone you scored on James White would’ve been the definition of a “weird brag” in 2015. If it was Julian Edelman then I would be telling this story everywhere; in fact, you probably already know it.
But again, this was James White, future unemployed NFL free agent, right? Let me make this clear because I am not sure I have: I thought James White stunk. Why was he even taking up a roster spot? Montee Ball was my Wisconsin Badger running back of choice anyways. Why couldn’t the Pats have him? If you asked me to assert what White contributed to the Pats I would’ve in my best talk radio level knowledge said “a warm body.”
I wasn’t rooting against White, but if he got sent packing apathy would’ve been the most favorable reaction he could have gotten from me.
Flash forward to 2018, and White has stuffed those sentiments in my face like he should’ve done to my hook shot.
2018 has been a sensational season for White. After a first two years of doing nothing, he finally became a true Patriot and not just a roster spot. In 2016 he arrived as a part of the prolific New England offense with 551 yards receiving on 86 targets and five touchdowns.
This isn’t really his breakout year. Last year he had three touchdowns in the passing with 429 yards on 72 targets in 14 games. That 2016 season he was sensational in the Super Bowl. He didn’t win MVP, but according to actual MVP Tom Brady and the truck he gave him, he deserved it, putting up 139 total yards (29 rushing, 110 receiving) and two touchdowns including the game winner in overtime.
If you care about fantasy, you never cared about him. Until this year. According to Fantasypros.com he is averaging a solid 13 points per week. He is their No. 26 back which sounds meh until you realize Sony Michel eats up most of the snaps in the backfield and is primarily a third down scat back.
White is not a big yards earner carrying the ball. Prior to this season he never ran for more than 171 yards in a season, which is pretty paltry. But this year, through 12 games, he has run the ball more than capably (329 yards on 76 carries) and is still a tremendous weapon in the passing game. With a shaky wide receiving core, he has been an integral part to keeping the famous Brady-Patriot offense humming. I really don’t know where they would be without him. Literally, he is small (5-feet-10-inches, 205 pounds). Hence why I dropped a hook shot over his head. But figuratively, to this squad, this season and this fan base, he is enormous. Just not big enough to stop me.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.