By: Bill Tewes
Patriots running back James White posted a MVP-like game, as the Patriots topped the Falcons in an unlikely comeback to win Super Bowl LI 34-28. His impact was largely felt through the air, as White hauled in a Super Bowl record 14 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown. White also rushed for two touchdowns, taylling 29 rushing yards and also took an impressively called half back keeper for New England’s first 2 point conversion. White posted an additional Super Bowl record for points scored by an individual player with 20 points. He scored the game winning touchdown, completing the nearly impossible comeback for the Patriots.
Tom Brady deservedly took home the MVP for his role in orchestrating their comeback, but White’s impact was felt throughout the entire game. He was responsible for three of New England’s touchdowns and when it looked as if New England could not comeback after being down 28-3, he was there to pick up the slack and provide New England a sliver of hope.
Even the MVP of the game believed that White should have been the actual MVP. In a post game interview, Brady said, “I think James White deserves it,” Brady said of the Patriots running back. “It’d be nice for him. It took a real team effort. (Fox Sports).” According to Yahoo Sports, Brady may even give away the truck he won as part of his MVP award to White.
White’s swiss-army-knife-like level of play propelled the Patriots into ever having a chance at making last night’s game interesting. White has had some nice games for the Patriots since his rookie season in 2014, but has often been third on the depth chart behind teammates LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. White was inactive for the Patriots Super Bowl XLIX victory against the Seahawks that season and it would be hard to believe that not playing in that Super Bowl did not gave him extra drive and motivation to get him to where he is today; a Super Bowl record setting running back.
For many Wisconsin Badger fans, James White has always been a household name at Camp Randall stadium. Even though he was second fiddle to record setting running backs such as Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon for much of his collegiate career, White’s work ethic was already evident in his freshman season, where h won Big 10 freshman of the year, after totaling 1,052 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns (Sports-Reference).
He finally got his chance to truly shine in his senior season as the Badgers primary starter, where he totaled 1,444 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, while also amassing an additional 300 yards receiving as well as catching three touchdowns (Sports-Reference). It was not until his senior season that it became evident that White could be a dynamic threat catching the ball. White entered the 2014 NFL draft with a profile of barely getting draft, which was surprising, seeing as how he had an excellent career with the Badgers in a limited role for much of his collegiate career.
It was somewhat of surprise when Bill Belicheck drafted White at the end of the 4th round. White dropped in the draft largely due to size and speed, but many teams failed to recognize the tangible things he brought to the table. Perhaps if White was the starter for all four years he spent at Wisconsin, he would have been a much higher pick, regardless of the concerns with his size and speed.
In looking at the 2014 Running Back Draft Class, it is hard to believe that players such as Bishop Sankey, Tre Mason, Charles Sims, Jerick McKinnon, Dri Archer, Andre Williams, Ka’Deem Carey and De’Anthony Thomas all were drafted ahead of White. Most of these running backs have little to no role with their current teams and it is even more unbelievable now that White has proven his worth on the NFL’s biggest stage. He is developing well with the Patriots and may be the only running back from this class aside from Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Hill, that will earn a second contract in the NFL. His Super Bowl LI performance will certainly help that cause.