Steve White warms up before the Detroit game; on Monday, he donned headphones again to appear on the Pewter Power Hour
We don't gain any enjoyment from another man's pain, so it isn't until Steve White conceded the humor in the situation that we could laugh at his Ray Rhodes impression.
Actually, 'impression' may be a strong word. White wasn't going for a spot-on imitation as much as historical accuracy when he replayed both ends of a 1996 phone call between him and the former Philadelphia Eagles head coach.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran defensive end shared his memories of the draft-day event during a 40-minute appearance Monday Night on the Pewter Power Hour, the unique, live call-in show on Buccaneers.com. During most of the show, White chatted on the phone with Buccaneer fans across the country, but he concluded his appearance with a description of how he first entered the NFL, complete with that memorable conversation with Rhodes.
As a college senior at Tennessee, White had a huge year playing defensive end, racking up nine sacks, three forced fumbles and six passes defensed while also earning conference all-academic honors. He was, however, the classic 'tweener' when it came to NFL scouting, a talented player who, at 240 pounds, was perhaps not suited to play his natural position on the professional level.
White's approach to that issue was to use the months after his senior season ended to pack on 30 pounds of muscle and become a more attractive defensive end candidate. The approach of several NFL teams, on the other hand, was to project White as a 240-pound linebacker, even though he had never played that position.
"I was all for playing defensive end," said White, who in the long run has made a nice career of that in the NFL. "I was up to 270 pounds and I was pretty much past the moniker of 'tweener.'"
Or so he thought.
The Dallas scouting department actually though White could make a very good 'jumbo' linebacker of sorts, since he had retained his speed even at 270 pounds. The Cowboys worked him out as a linebacker prior to the draft, and White and his agent distributed the tape of the workout to other teams, with the thought that it would increase his odds of being drafted.
Enter the Eagles.
"Philadelphia is an interesting story because, of course, they hate the Cowboys," said White. "When they got wind that the Cowboys were thinking about drafting me or picking me up late as a linebacker, they (decided), 'Okay, we'll go in and get this guy.' They didn't know a lot about me.
"A funny aside to this story: They flew me up to Philly the week before the draft, gave me a full physical, weighed me in and everything. I was 275 when they weighed me."
That brings us to draft weekend, which can often be one of the most exciting and memorable days in a player's life. This one was at least memorable, as five years later White was still able to paraphrase the traditional post-draft phone call he got from Philly.
"So I get the call on the Sunday of the draft congratulating me because they had just drafted me," remembered White. "Ray Rhodes is on the phone and this is how the conversation went.
"Ray Rhodes: 'Hello, may I speak to Steve White?'
"(White:) 'This is he.'
"(Rhodes:) 'Congratulations, Steve, we just drafted you and you are now a Philadelphia Eagle.'
"(White:) 'Thank you, Coach.'
"Ray Rhodes: 'So how much are you weighing?'
"(White:) 'I'm weighing about 270.'
"Ray Rhodes: 'Two seventy?! What do you mean?!'
"Then the player personnel guy gets on the phone and says to me, 'You know you're going to have to lose that weight, don't you?' So, immediately I could tell we were getting off on the wrong foot."
Still, White approached the situation as an opportunity, losing the weight as asked and going into a crash course on linebacking. In the end, Philadelphia waived him in late August and the Buccaneers signed him to their practice squad. Just six weeks later, after regaining some of the weight that had made him a defensive end, White was signed to the Bucs' active roster. He has been there ever since and is now an extremely valuable and versatile member of Tampa Bay's stellar defensive line.
"It's funny now, but it was difficult at the time because I went from 240, got my weight up to 270, then lost all that weight down to 235 by training camp that year, playing pretty well, I thought, but never really being given the opportunity to make the team," said White.
"I get here and I'm a 235-pound defensive end going against Paul Gruber every day and getting tossed around. Then I get my weight back up to about 260 by the end of that year and it's kind of been uphill since then.
"But it's that journey, things like that, that make you appreciate getting to the mountain top even more."
White's show-stopping story was the result of a question posed by a caller named Gayle. During White's 40 minutes on the Pewter Power Hour, he took phone calls from Buc fans in Washington, New Jersey, California, Florida and elsewhere, discussing whatever topics the callers put on the table.
Among the issues covered on Monday's Pewter Power Hour were the state of the Bucs' pass rush, the team's remaining playoff hopes, the future of the team if it doesn't reach the Super Bowl this season, White's ability to play defensive tackle if needed and much more.
To listen to White's entire appearance on Monday's show, or to replay past visits from the likes of Mike Alstott, Warrick Dunn, Ronde Barber and Tony Dungy, please visit the Pewter Power Hour archive.
The Pewter Power Hour airs every other Monday night on Buccaneers.com, using a live audio stream that can be accessed using Windows Media Player. Due to Tampa Bay's Monday night game in St. Louis on October 26, the next Pewter Power Hour will be broadcast on Monday, December 3.