The most tragic part of Kevin White’s story, to me, is that he battled through three serious injuries — and three grueling rehabs — and has nothing to show for it.
Sure, White has millions of dollars. According to Spotrac, he earned $16,827,686 from football. That’s a heck of lot more than most people will make in a lifetime.
“It’s not about the god damn money,” White said. “If it was about the god damn money I would’ve been retired, I would’ve quit. It’s not about the damn money.”
Money makes things easier, White acknowledged. But, as he put it: “I want the thing that’s gonna last forever.”
The thing that’s gonna last forever is a game-winning touchdown. Or a highlight-reel catch. Or a thousand-yard season. Something for fans to remember Kevin White by other than being a bust.
The closest White came was the Hail Mary he caught against the Patriots in 2018 — the one where he came one yard short of scoring a game-tying touchdown as time expired. He had 25 catches for 285 yards and, most importantly here, zero touchdowns in 14 games with the Bears.
“I just wish I could’ve gave the city of Chicago the talent that they drafted,” White said. “That’s what I was fighting so hard for — I gotta show the fans. If I could at least show the fans? Chicago, don’t pay me. Pay me zero dollars.
“But I need to show the fans. I have to. I have to. I need to. I feel like that would’ve made me happy and been like okay, at least I gave them one year.”
White is still chasing that moment. It’s why he hasn’t given up on his NFL career yet. He takes to heart what his old coach, John Fox, still texts him: “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready, K-White.”
White, on one hand, deserves that opportunity. It’s remarkably cruel White had such awful luck with injuries, spent years of his life rehabbing them and then never even could relish the moment of scoring a touchdown in the regular season.
All White wanted was to show who he could be as a football player to the city of Chicago. It’s not a vengeful thing or anything malicious — even though his last year with the Bears did leave a bad taste in his mouth.
“I got to Arizona, all I’m thinking about is Chicago. That’s home,” White said. “That’ll forever be home whether fans or organization like it or not. I want to show the city of Chicago, like, damn this guy is it. Or like holy crap, this dude fought injury after injury and now he’s — because I want to show Chicago, to be honest.
“Not the organization, necessarily, that’s business stuff. Ryan Pace and Foxy, I do. But definitely the fans. I do. Because I feel like they deserve it and there’s a lot of good people in Chicago, a lot of good people in the organization that deserve to see Kevin White.”
On the other hand, White’s revelation he checked out during the 2018 season certainly is known in coaching circles. Checking out on a 12-4, NFC North-winning team does not reflect well among the people who might give White another shot.
And White did finally have an opportunity to get that moment in 2018. While his chances were limited, he didn’t deliver.
White is still chasing another chance, though. It’s not a second chance; he had that in Arizona. It’s probably not even a third chance, since he tried out — unsuccessfully — for the Lions last fall. Fourth chances are exceedingly rare in the NFL.
But White didn’t battle back from a 2015 stress fracture that resulted in the first surgery of his life to have nothing to show for it.
He didn’t deal with the crushing mental and physical blow of fracturing his fibula and spraining his ankle in 2016 only to have nothing to show for it.
He didn’t fight through a rare fractured scapula in 2017 to only have nothing to show for it.
And it’s why he’s not ready to give up on football. The odds may be stacked against him, but he sounded like he’s going to keep chasing a shot at that moment — the moment that’ll last forever.
“That’s what I’m training for,” White said. “I can’t control it. I can’t say oh, Green Bay, come get me and let me — I can’t. I’m not in control of that. Do I think (everyone) will (see it)? Yes. When? I don’t know. But I’m going to get it done for them. I got to.
“I got to.”