The more you can do? Here's DE Dewayne White stealing a two-point conversion away from Jacksonville S Donovin Darius
When it comes to hunting down quarterbacks, not much stops Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Dewayne White.
Coming out of college in 2003, he had racked up 37.5 sacks in 38 games. A year later, and playing his first full professional season, White tied a Bucs team record, posting at least a half sack for six straight games despite seeing limited playing time. In fact, White's biggest obstacle since entering the league hasn't been offensive linemen; it's been climbing a depth chart that has defensive stalwarts Simeon Rice and Greg Spires listed ahead of him as the team's starting defensive ends.
"The jump from college is not really a problem," White said. "You should be able to transition into the NFL once you learn the defense, and I came from a similar defense. The problem comes when you've got to sit out a year [as a backup]. You lose confidence sometimes going from a starter to a backup or three deep. You lose some confidence in yourself trying to figure out what to do to beat out the guy in front of you. That's normally what happens to a lot of people."
It's easy to understand why that could have happened to White, the team's top overall selection in the 2003 NFL Draft. Playing at Louisville, he ranked among the nation's leaders in sacks each of his three seasons. He also set a Louisville record with 56.5 career tackles for a loss. Along the way, he was named to the All-Conference USA First Team, the All-American Dream Team, and The Sporting News Preseason All-American second team, to list but a few of his honors. The contrast was evident: in college, White was an impact player; as a Buccaneer, he was to assume backup duties.
When that happened, White said he was faced with two options.
The first was to be overwhelmed and demoralized to the point where it would have been easy to fade into obscurity. That wasn't White's style. Never has been. After all, this is the man who was named college football's most inspirational student-athlete in 2002. This is the man who was recognized as Role Model of the Year for the state of Alabama.
No, giving up on himself was never an alternative. Instead, White embraced his second option – making something happen whenever and wherever he could.
"You've got to make lemonade out of the lemons they give you," White said. "That's how I take it. Even though it's not my ideal situation, I've got to make the best of it.
"When you're not the starter, you just try and fit in where you can, and that's all I'm trying to do. I'm trying to help the team win in all aspects of the game. Wherever they tell me to play, I look at that with a chip on my shoulder – like even though this is not my position, I'm going to go and do the best, make the best of every situation I'm put in."
And that's exactly what he's done. After playing relatively sparingly as a rookie, White was temporarily converted into a defensive tackle the following year after series of injuries hit the Bucs' interior defensive line. He didn't mind; it was a chance to get on the field. That season he contributed 29 tackles and six sacks, good for third on the team behind Rice and Spires, mostly while playing defensive tackle in nickel situations.
Last season, White posted 30 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a defensive touchdown and seven special teams tackles – that's right, special teams. The 6-2, 273-pound White also runs down on coverage teams, but his biggest special teams contribution last season was undoubtedly his game-saving block of a 28-yard field goal by Atlanta Falcons kicker Todd Peterson. The block prevented the Bucs from dropping to 9-6 at the time, and allowed them to control their own destiny and eventually claim the division championship.
And just last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, White was still finding ways to make his presence known. After a Mike Alstott two-yard touchdown plunge, the Bucs called a fake extra-point conversion and went for two. Punter Josh Bidwell scrambled to his right and threw to the corner of the end zone where Jaguars safety Donovin Darius appeared to make the interception. However, before Darius could secure the ball, White ripped it away, brought it into his body and kept both feet in bounds for a successful catch and conversion – yet another play in another way for White.
Still, White's a pass-rusher through and through, and he knows the importance of the Bucs defense improving on last year's sack total of 36, the second-lowest total in the 10 years since Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin has been at the helm.
"The pass rush affects everybody else," White said. "We get back there, and it affects the linebackers and safeties, the corners, everybody. It always starts up front, and we've got to get back to that.
"Pass-rushing takes resilience. You're not going to get there all the time. You've got to just keep pounding that rock, keep pounding, and eventually what happens is that you're going to catch them when they're tired and you're going to get that sack. It takes a little luck and few miscues on the offense also. It takes a little bit of everything."
Fortunately, a little bit of everything is right up White's alley.