DE Greg White led the Bucs with eight sacks last year but wants to prove on the practice field that he can do more
Greg White's long and winding road to the NFL has been well-documented.
He was, as most Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans now know, cut by five NFL teams and eventually directed to the Arena Football League, where he became a star before being convinced to attend the Buccaneers' training camp last summer, all while working various odd jobs in between.
White spent his previous offseasons (if you could even call them that) working to make ends meet. From stints at a syrup factory to delivering bottled water to selling electronics at Best Buy, White never had much time to relax.
White was one of the NFL's most amazing out-of-nowhere stories in 2007. Fresh off the heels of a dominant effort in the AFL, he signed with the Bucs a week into training camp, made the regular-season roster and ended up leading the team with eight sacks and seven forced fumbles. The latter total tied an all-time franchise record. Given all of that, you might have expected White to kick back and take some time for himself this summer.
Instead, White has been working extremely hard to push his game to new heights. Given the time it took him to finally gain his NFL foothold – White was originally drafted by Houston in the sixth round in 2002 – he isn't about to let it slip away due to inactivity.
White did take on one new non-football responsibility in 2008, however..
"Yeah, I got me a little puppy now, a boxer, so I've taken a little time for that," he laughed on Wednesday after trudging off the Buccaneers' practice field. Fortunately, his new dependent hasn't kept White from staying focused. In between house training sessions and trips to the dog park, he has spent most of his free time preparing for the upcoming season.
"I've just been hanging out, trying to get better and learn the defense a little better so I can be more confident and play harder," White said. "[I've been working on] getting in shape. Getting in football shape and working hard, getting stronger and getting faster. It's the truth. That's what I'm doing in the offseason. I know you hear [players say] that all the time, but it's the God-honest truth."
White emerged in 2007 in a slightly different manner than most first-year players. Drafted in 2002 by the expansion Texans, he failed to make the roster before trying out with the Bears and playing NFL Europe in the years that followed. After several other failed cracks to land a more permanent spot on an NFL roster, White made his way to the Arena League, where he was a star performer from 2006-2007 playing for the Orlando Predators. Orlando Head Coach Jay Gruden, the older brother of Bucs Head Coach Jon Gruden, was instrumental in earning White an invite to the Bucs' 2007 training camp.
So while in essence White was a first-year player last season, his experience was quite different than that of the Bucs' first-round draft pick in 2007, Gaines Adams. Yet the two combined to post 14 sacks on the season, as Adams led all NFL rookies last year with six.
The two defensive ends form quite a contrasting pair of second-year pass rushers, but White said he envisions big things out of the duo.
"We kind of know each other better now and we get the opportunity to work the full year instead of just odd times," White said. "We kind of came together last year when we went in on nickel defense. Then he progressed to starting and I stayed on nickel defense, but we're coming together slowly but surely.
"A lot of people are hoping that we get together and become a tandem. We both can rush the passer, but he has a different style. He's 6-6 and I'm 6-3, so it's a little different. But I'm definitely looking forward to it."
White joked that while the "experience" column next to both his and Adams' name on the roster lists the number two, he still feels like an elder statesman to the younger Adams.
"He's still learning; I'm old," White said. "I'm 28. He's like 24 or whatever, so I'm kind of helping him. But he's coachable; he's listening to some of the guys like me and [Chris] Hovan and KC [Kevin Carter]."
Looking ahead to 2008, White is already planning to continue the work ethic that helped make him so successful in his first year in the league, especially as it relates to his conditioning.
"I was doing extra running durng the season, and I'm going to do it this year," White said. "Nothing's going to change. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' so I'm going to keep doing it and keep getting better."
The always-smiling, always-confident White knew that his performance in 2007 was simply a matter of being given a chance. So with his pass-rushing companion Gaines Adams by his side (and his new puppy, too), White is continuing his training for what he hopes to be an even better 2008 season.
"Not to sound conceited, but I knew I could pass rush," White said. "I'm just working on the run now, and like I said, my conditioning is one of the biggest things I'm really concentrating on. The better condition I'm in, the better I can see ball, get ball. Knowing the defense helps out."