By Dave Morrison
BECKLEY — Ask any ordinary prospective NFL draftee and he will tell you he doesn’t care which of the 32 NFL franchises picks him in April’s NFL draft.
As West Virginia fans know, Mountaineer quarterback Patrick White is no ordinary player.
So when White was asked Sunday at the Mountain State Coal Classic Tip-Off Banquet, of which he and WVU coach Bill Stewart were the keynote speakers, which, if any, NFL teams he might like to be drafted by, he had a refreshing response.
“Pittsburgh,” White said. “I grew up a Steelers fan. You didn’t come in my Pops’ house if you weren’t a Steelers fan.”
“And,” added Stewart, seated next to White at the pre-banquet press conference, “we’d love to keep him right here close to home.”
Tournament officials couldn’t have picked a better time to have White as a guest.
On Saturday, White was named the Senior Bowl Most Valuable Player, after passing for 95 yards, a touchdown and leading two scoring drives to, typically, lead his squad to victory.
And it was the first time that White was able to showcase his vast talent to scouts and player personnel representatives from all 32 NFL teams.
Draft gurus such as Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN have White listed as a second- or third-round selection in the upcoming draft.
In getting ready for the draft, White’s representatives have him working out in California at one of the many training facilities where prospective draftees work out.
“There are a lot of great athletes there, and hopefully they’ll beef me up,” White said. “I’ll work out there until (March) 18th and then I’ll go to the NFL Combine and see where it goes from there.”
White wasn’t sure how his performance in the star-studded Senior Bowl will help his status.
“I just have to keep working hard and get better,” White said. “Every day I just have to go out and compete, make myself (a better player).”
He is sure of a couple things.
He wants to remain at quarterback, not move around to different positions a la Antwan Randle-El.
“My mindset is that I’m a quarterback,” White said. “And I’m going to be a quarterback until someone tells me I’m not a quarterback anymore.”
As a baseball player who has been selected in the MLB draft twice, he is also sure he isn’t going to be on a diamond anytime soon.
“I haven’t played baseball in four or five years,” White said. “I don’t think I’ll be picking up a bat and glove any time soon.”
White will be back in Morgantown in early March as well for the WVU Pro Day.
Last year Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin was at the event.
Tomlin was given his coaching start by none other than Stewart, who is also a friend of Steelers player personnel director Kevin Colbert.
Which led Stewart into a story illustrating White’s NFL-ready status.
“When we played North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, that last touchdown that Patrick threw to Alric Arnett was a pro-type pass,” Stewart said. “Butch (Davis, a former NFL coach and now the Tar Heels coach) runs an NFL-type defense. (Arnett) was his third read on that play. That doesn’t happen (in college). After the bowl, I called Kevin Colbert and I told him, ‘Wait until you see the tape of this game and see the touchdown Patrick threw against your defense.’”
Whether or not the Steelers need a QB is debatable.
Ben Roethlisberger is obviously entrenched as the starter. Byron Leftwich, a one-year replacement for backup Charlie Batch, is obviously not returning, Batch is getting up there in NFL years and Dennis Dixon was drafted last year as Roethlisberger’s understudy.
Somebody will take a chance on White.
“I can’t tell you how many general managers and pro personnel guys who came in this year and the ‘wows!’ we got when they saw game tape of Patrick,” Stewart said.
Now, the trick is trading those college “ooohs” to professional “aaahs.”
If anybody can do it, White, as Mountaineer fans know, is the man to pull it off. He is no ordinary player.
Stewart didn’t have to say who he was favoring in Sunday’s Super Bowl, pitting Arizona against Pittsburgh, what with is ties to Tomlin.
The question was, however, what he remembered about his days coaching with Tomlin, when he gave the youngster his start at VMI.
“Two of the best receivers I ever coached against were Michael Tomlin and Chris Beatty (now a Mountaineer assistant coach),” Stewart said. “If Michael Tomlin ran as fast as this guy sitting to my left (White), he’d still be playing in the NFL and (Pittsburgh Steelers receiver) Hines Ward would be coaching.”
Which is saying something, as Ward, known as a fierce blocker and a former Super Bowl MVP, is nearing potential Hall of Fame career status.
“Michael was a better blocking receiver than Ward,” Stew said. “He just didn’t have the speed.”