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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rachaad White Supports Big Brothers Big Sisters Event to 'Pass it Down'

Buccaneers running back Rachaad White, who was the special guest at Friday's 'Strikes for Kids' event, credits his experience in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program with helping build the foundation that has led to his success

Rachaad White had his two-year-old daughter Nevaeh in his left arm and a wide smile on his face as he strode into the Pinchasers Midtown bowling alley in Tampa on Friday afternoon. John Waller, standing nearby, recognized the expression he's seen for nearly two decades.

"That smile you see now is the same smile he had as an eight year old," said Waller, who was the 'Big' to White's 'Little' in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program. "He's warm personable…and he has a goofy streak!"

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White, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' second-year running back, was at Pinchasers to serve as the special guest at the Fourth Annual Tampa Bay General Hospital Strikes For Kids events. In attendance were 25 kids in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and White hoped that drawing attention to the organization would lead to more volunteers to serve as mentors, knowing what a difference Waller made in his own life.

"I think it's huge when it comes to the youth," said White. "They just see guys [as] inspiration, guys that do the right thing. I just think it's huge for the kids to see some positivity, see some belief and have some self-confidence and to believe they can be whatever they want to be in life."

The prospective 'Littles' at Friday's event received backpacks, tablets, headphones, lunch and, of course, a fun time on the lanes. After signing a table full of memorabilia for the boys and girls, White mingled with them, heard their stories and talked about what Big Brothers Big Sisters meant to him. He was also presented with the "Defender of Potential" award from the organization.

Waller's attendance at the event came as a surprise to White, given that his 'Big' now lives in Minneapolis. Waller was first paired with White when the latter was eight years old and has maintained a close connection with him ever since, finding gratification every time White found another bit of success. That included his football path from junior college to a star turn at Arizona State to his selection in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

"He meant a lot," said White of Waller's continued support. "He wasn't even supposed to be here but he's still here, so that's amazing. I think at a certain age they're not required to be with you anymore, but just building that connection, building that bond…even him moving to Chicago when I was in middle school. It was just amazing. My mom could call him. She only called him a lot when I got in trouble. Just having that relationship was great, is great and it's still growing today."

It's not surprising that the two continue to bond over sports, as that was the early glue in their Big Brother-Little Brother relationship. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America contends that having a caring adult role model who provides one-on-one attention to a child helps him or her build confidence, which ultimately helps them succeed in their endeavors.

"Really what connected us was sports," said Waller, describing his early relationship with White in Kansas City, Missouri. "We played all the sports, but football always stood out. And he always had really good hands. So we'd play catch and just run around the park. We'd be outside, go get lunch, go get ice cream, and it was a blast. Sports is really what brought us together."

Now White wants to help pass it along by supporting the Big Brothers Big Sisters program any way he can. He says Waller's presence along with a loving family gave him the foundation he needed to become the man – and loving father – that he is today.

"In reality in life, that's what it's about: How can you inspire or impact someone else's life?" said White. "That's a big thing in general. You just want to pass it down, show people the right way to do things, show that even when you have a high level of success you can still lead the younger generation.

"Whatever the program needs I'm all for it, because it had a huge impact in my life."

In less than a month, White will head to training camp, where he is expected to be the lead back in the Buccaneers' offense. Tampa Bay's 2023 regular season coincidentally kicks off in Minnesota on September 10. Waller plans to be there, proudly wearing red and pewter amid a sea of purple. While he may have provided the stable adult male presence White needed as a child, he discovered along the way that, as he now puts it, mentorship goes both ways.

"It has meant so much to me," said Waller. "I still get emotional thinking about all of this even though I've told this story a million times. Seeing Rachaad shine on and off the field has been a tremendous gift for me. I've seen how much his daughter loves him and what a good father he is. That's a tough job. Seeing him thrive I've been so proud of him. It's been amazing."

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