The Chicago Bears’ decision to draft Kevin White with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft was met by applause and excitement in the Auditorium Theatre and was a thrilling moment for G.M. Ryan Pace as he made his first ever selection as the head man in Chicago.
With the hoopla subsiding and White preparing to slip on the No. 13 jersey for the first time, the question becomes an obvious one: Just how did he get here, and what does he bring to the Bears?
White’s road to the NFL didn’t start at a major college program, but instead began at Lackawanna College. No Division I school wanted to take a chance on White because of his poor grades in high school, so he was forced to begin his quest for a spot in the pros at a community college instead.
What followed was a long and arduous journey that culminated in him attending West Virginia, and the story is woven beautifully in this piece by Michael Silver of NFL Network. In it, White dismisses talk of being a player with only one year of college production under his belt, saying that his journey required him to succeed in a lot of make-or-break moments:
“This is one reason why White, who vaulted up draft boards after a stellar season at West Virginia and a blazing, 4.35 second 40-yar dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, chafes at the One-Year Wonder label some skeptics have attached. To him, the fact that he has stared down three produce-or-else seasons since his senior year of high school, and has come through each time, is a sign of resilience and ability to perform under pressure.”
When White finally got regular playing time with the Mountaineers, he instantly showed why everyone had been so enamored with his potential as a player. In 2014, he racked up 109 receptions for 1447 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he ultimately was the second wide receiver chosen in this year’s NFL Draft, following Amari Cooper in the selection process.
With White now in the fold with the Bears, the question becomes this: what does he bring to the table? While some will say that he is a replacement for Brandon Marshall in the passing game, the reality is that he brings a different dimension to the table, and that’s exactly what the Bears need.
“Last season, the Bears’ receiving corps was made up of similarly skilled athletes who won with leverage opposed to speed. They only had one touchdown reception of more than 40 years, which illustrates their lack of deep speed. Consequently, with no concern of being beat over the top, defenses played split-safety looks and brought them closer to the line of scrimmage to suffocate underneath passing windows. White’s run-after-the-catch abilities are desperately needed to diversify the Bears’ passing attack and force defenses to play more honestly with their safeties.”
That ability to stretch the field will not only help Jay Cutler, who likes to throw the ball deep but had to settle for a lot of short routes and jump balls last season, but it will also help the other pass catchers in the Bears’ lineup. Alshon Jeffery will get a lot more single coverage this season, and he won’t have to worry about having to run routes that he isn’t well-equipped to handle. Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte will also benefit, as short passing plays to White will help keep some of the pressure off of them as defenses try to gameplan how to defend the Bears’ passing attack.
Ultimately, White’s pick was made for purely football reasons, but his story is still an inspiring one. He came close to giving up on his dreams of playing in the NFL, but he ultimately backed away from the precipice and turned himself into a player that could be a big star in this league. Pace undoubtedly sees that when he looks at the young wide receiver, and now he’ll have a chance to prove himself under one of the largest microscopes that the NFL has to offer.