The transition from one level of a sport to the next is nearly always an exponential leap. For Kevin White, chosen Thursday night by the Bears with the No. 7 pick of the 2015 draft’s first round, one part of the leap to the NFL won’t compare to one jump he’s already experienced.
With no offers to play major college football after high school, White went to Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa., for two years. As to the kind of crowds he played in front of there:
“Fifty people,” White said on Friday, shaking his head. “Maybe.”
If nothing else, the situation added to a character base that was learning to take motivation from within, not rely on surroundings. White had to swallow his disappointment coming out of high school and would again when a scant few teams showed interest in him after two years at Lackawanna.
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Playing in front of 50 people in a small upstate Pennsylvania industrial town means playing for the love of the game, not necessarily the adulation of fans. White admits the setting sometimes strained his motivation.
“A little bit, because you don’t have anyone at your game, it’s not on TV, you don’t have the best equipment,” White said. “I wasn’t getting offers at the time, (and) things that motivate guys when you’re at junior college are getting offers: ‘OK, I just got Wisconsin. Now I got West Virginia.’ It motivates you to continue to get more offers. For me, I wasn’t getting any, so I was kinda like, ‘What’s going on?’”
While teams rarely draft one player expressly for purposes of replacing another, the Bears effectively selected White as the successor to Brandon Marshall, traded to the New York Jets after a tumultuous 2014 season that ended with him on injured reserve as well as with questions about his commitment to being a Bear in Chicago.
Marshall in just three years and 45 games left Chicago ranked No. 8 all time in pass receptions (279) and tied for fifth all time in touchdown catches (31) despite just those 45 games. No other Bears receiver has approached that sustained rate of production.
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If Marshall left with any ill will toward Chicago, it was not toward the city. White has been in touch with Marshall and got a very positive scouting report.
“He said if I did end up here it’s a great city and I’d love it,” White said. “He said they were still going to live here. I forgot what he said about living here or something, that his wife loves it. So he said if I did end up here, I would love it.”
Love it more than Scranton?
“Oh. My. Gosh.” White said, laughing. “(Chicago will be) a lot different. I’ve got to get adjusted and back used to the big city.”