In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles cornerback Mitchell White:
Roob: Hey everybody, welcome to today's edition of Camp Central here with cornerback Mitchell White. Welcome to Philly! Let's go back in time - now, you were as much of a track prospect in high school as a football prospect, right? What led you to football as opposed to the high jump? You were a 6-foot-10 high-jumper, which is pretty good.
White: I don't know, I was just always drawn to football in general. I like the team and camaraderie of it. Track was kind of more natural, and I don't want to brag about it or anything, but it was easy. It came very easy to me, very natural. Football I enjoyed working for a goal and achieving success in that sport. So just more of a thrill and more of a satisfaction out of it.
Roob: Now you go to Michigan State as a walk-on. What were the challenges of that, and how tough was it to earn a scholarship as a walk-on there?
White: The challenges are pretty similar to being an undrafted free agent here. Every year, you start at the bottom of the depth chart and they bring guys in for that specific position every year. And you have to hustle - you kind of take the back door every single year, so you have to re-earn that scholarship every single year. It just gets you in that mindset of just always working and never taking for granted a play or a rep. Always hustling, being the first guy to do something. Obviously, it benefits me now in the long run, but it was definitely a challenge. I had a twin brother who was on scholarship, I had a younger brother who was on scholarship, so definitely being in that household it felt like I had to get on scholarship.
Roob: They'd just walk around calling you walk-on?
White: Yeah, yeah.
Roob: ‘Come to dinner, walk-on!'
Roob: You go to Oakland after school finished, you sign with the Raiders and I believe you were there with Matt McGloin if I have my dates right. You were there for that whole first training camp. What was that experience like?
White: Again, I would say looking back to that time, I was just trying to hold my head above water. I was a rookie fresh out of college, so everything was really fast for me and I hadn't played much at the defensive back position in college in terms of game experience. But yeah, looking back, it's helped me this time around because I have a little bit more seasoning of what to expect at training camp, how you need to take care of your body, things you need to pay attention to and how you need to get into the swing of things.
Roob: What about the decision to go to Canada? You were just talking to Aaron Grymes here, who's a CFL vet like you. You both did three years up there, you both won a Grey Cup. What was that experience like and was that a tough call going up there?
White: I think if you're born in America and the United States, you want to play in the NFL. I think you've got to understand that it comes down to realities, like, ‘Look, I want to keep playing football.' I didn't want to spend a year out of football. I wanted to get better, to play to get better. It's a humbling experience, but then you end up going up there and finding wow, there are some good players up here and there's some good football and I've got to bring my game. You don't have a lot of options once you go up there and if you get cut, then your options get fewer. It's definitely professional football up there and it teaches you how to play and you've got to play every week.
Roob: Now, a crazy thing happened after your second year with Montreal and this story blows my mind. They asked you to take a pay cut even though you were a starter, you were an established player. And you're a prideful guy. Tell everyone what happened when they asked you to take a pay cut.
White: I don't want to bring a negative light on that. It's a business side of football and unfortunately, it came to me. I had a great experience in Montreal all the way up to that point, but yeah, we had a camp and I had moved to a new position that year. I thought I had a good camp but they asked me to take a pay cut and that was a really big moment for me because I trusted myself as a player and I said, ‘Look, I'm not going to take a pay cut and I'll take my chances somewhere else in this league. I think somebody else is going to pick me up.' And sure enough, they did. I had to wait four weeks for it, but Ottawa picked me up and I ended up having my best season up there.
Roob: So you sign with the Redblacks and you guys go 9-9-1 but you get to the Grey Cup and you're 10-point underdogs to the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup, which is the Super Bowl of Canada. Oh, by the way, Montreal? Who cut you? You had an interception against them in the regular season to seal the game, so you get a little revenge. But what do you remember about the Grey Cup? And what an accomplishment, I think they were 16-2-1, you guys were 9-9-1. They were heavy favorites and you guys won it all.
White: The one thing I remember about that week was how confident as a unit we were. We were just like, ‘We know what to do. It's game time.' One of the better feelings is playing championship-level football and playing for your team and that, to me, was one of the best parts of that experience. Really giving it up for your team and your teammates because I just want to win that game. I don't care about anything else, I just want to win and when you accomplish that, it's a real feeling. There's nothing like winning the championship and that's what I hope we can do here.
Roob: Now how do you feel like you fit in? It's a very young group of corners and everyone's getting a good, long look. Jim Schwartz talked about, ‘I don't know who the starters are. I don't know who the backups are.' Everything's up for grabs. You feel like it's a good spot for you from that aspect?
White: One thing that I'm best at is when I have an opportunity to compete. And I think everybody here at the professional level wants to be able to compete and get their fair shake at a chance. Obviously, I came from a household where we're all athletes and we were taught that the cream rises to the top. And it's long camp and it's going to play itself out.
Roob: We appreciate a few minutes. Eagles cornerback Mitchell White, good luck. Thank you.