Javin White worked tirelessly to get to this point.
He used to drive from Vacaville to Oakland's McCylmonds High School, where he had dreams of being a standout receiver. White committed to UNLV, a program that has long been down on its luck, as a three-star prospect. He paid his dues for the Runnin' Rebels, working his way up from special teams to become the face of a program as a versatile defensive player who saw time at cornerback, safety and linebacker.
White wanted to be the first UNLV player drafted in the NFL since the Atlanta Falcons drafted Joe Hawley in the fourth round in 2010. But White didn't receive an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, and his pro day was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. His name wasn't called during the draft, but his phone rang shortly after. The Raiders were on the line, wanting to add the athletic hybrid to their rookie class.
The kid who went to high school in Oakland, and became the face of UNLV football joined the team moving from the East Bay to Sin City. White has a strong belief in himself and that his NFL journey truly will begin in Silver and Black.
"I'm going to bring my confidence," White said on the latest "Raiders Talk" podcast. "My confidence and my play. Even when I was in college, I was a confident player. I refer back to college because that's what people have to go off. When people watch my game they understand that feistiness I have. Everything I come with, that's pure heart. I love this sport. I love everything about it. Me being with the Raiders, I feel like this is a great program for me. I can be myself. I'm one of those guys that's going to get after it, and I won't be denied."
[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
As the Raiders modernize their defense, it's easy to see White finding a home in silver and black and developing into a quality NFL player.
After years of getting picked apart at linebacker, the Raiders overhauled the position this offseason. They brought in Cory Littleton to man the WILL linebacker spot and signed Nick Kwiatkoski to be the MIKE. Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock drafted Clemson safety Tanner Muse in the third round, and plan to move him to linebacker. Muse, like White, is a versatile, athletic defender who saw action all over the field in college. Muse will start his Raiders career as a special teams ace, and White should join him there if he can win a spot in training camp.
Even if White can't win a spot initially, he should find a home on the Raiders practice squad and be in perfect position to develop into a solid, modern-day linebacker for the Silver and Black.
As an undrafted free agent without rookie minicamp or OTAs, White faces an uphill climb to make the Raiders' roster. He knows that. But he's driven by hard work and the determination to make it in the NFL. There's a chip on his shoulder and a desire to prove those who overlooked him were wrong. It's the type of attitude that has become a calling card for the new era of Raiders football Gruden and Mayock are overseeing.
"Honestly, that's just like my life story, you know?" White said. "The chip on the shoulder, that's old school. In this time right now, it's more. I got out the mud. Nothing was given to me. When I came to UNLV I wasn't a highly-ranked dude. I worked my way up. I redshirted, played special teams just like everyone else had to do. Then, when I blew up, I never looked back. So when people ask me, 'Oh, were you always a star?' No. I got it straight out the mud like a lot of people do in college. Now, I guess I just got to get out the mud again in the NFL."
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White couldn't ask for a better spot to start his career as an undrafted free agent. The Raiders are starting anew in a town he knows well. A town that loves him and is rooting for him. He'll enter a building with Littleton, who went undrafted out of the University of Washington and became a special teams maven before transforming himself into one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL.
Littleton knows the road from undrafted to NFL star. White undoubtedly will be glued to him, picking Littleton's brain as his NFL journey gets underway.
Much like Keelan Doss did a year ago, White has the chance to become a fan favorite to Raider Nation. A local kid with East Bay and Vegas ties hoping to become a long-term part of the Raiders' future while building his own brand as Las Vegas' favored son in silver and black.
The skills and the drive are there. White just wanted an opportunity. He didn't get one in the draft. There was no combine invite. A virtual pro day was all he had to prove his worth at the next level.
The Raiders liked what they saw. Now, the real work begins again for Javin White.