New Bucs linebacker Devin White comes across as confident, but not cocky, when he talks about his game and what he’s going to bring to Tampa Bay’s defense, which has struggled over the last several seasons as the team has had back-to-back 5-11 seasons.
But White’s confidence reached new heights about facing the challenges that lie ahead in the NFC South facing upper echelon quarterbacks like New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Carolina’s Cam Newton.
“Those are all people that I can take down and get them on the ground,” White said. “Cam Newton, the bigger you are the harder you fall. Matt Ryan, I don’t think he can outrun me. And Drew Brees, I definitely don’t think he can outrun me. He can get it out quick, but I can get in the passing lanes and I can hold his guys. I’m ready to accept the challenge. You know the bigger the challenge, the better I play. I told [the Bucs] last night: pressure either busts pipes or makes diamonds. For me it makes diamonds.”
White believes he can be the catalyst for turning Tampa Bay’s defense around.
“At the start of the season everybody is going to be 0-0 and week in and week out we have the opportunity to go out there and win a game,” White said. “As far as me, I’m going to give it my all, and hopefully they fight for me as well as I’m fighting for them. If we have 11 guys on the same page on that defense, we can be unstoppable. I don’t know much about the offense. I know Jameis is a great player. I know they have Mike Evans and I really know they have O.J. Howard because I played against him in college. That guy is a freak. Man, he’s a freak.
“I know they are going to do great things, but I know defense wins championships. If we can get the ball to them we can create a bunch of opportunities for them. Like I said, that word opportunity is always going to be around me. Jameis is going to have an opportunity to make plays and get things going. I’m willing to get him back the ball as much as possible.”
White said that when he’s not on the field wreaking havoc on defense he’s working the sidelines as the biggest cheerleader for his teammates and letting his leadership shine.
“I’ll take you back to my LSU days,” White said. “When they call timeout for the offense, I’m in the huddle, saying, ‘Let’s go guys! We’ve got it! We’ve got it!’ When I’m standing down there getting ready to run down there on punt and those guys come off, ‘I’m about to get you the ball back, Joe [Burrow]. I’m about to get you the ball.’ I always have that energy. In that UCF game we lost 10 starters – All-Americans and everything – and we found a way. I kept their energy up. I kept the energy and told them we were going to get the ball back.
“Joe got picked, he got smashed in the mouth and then he had a pick-six. Guess who was the first one to run up to him, rub him on the head and I said, ‘I’m going to get you the ball back.’ I didn’t know I was going to get him a strip-fumble, but I did that. It’s like you speak it into existence and you have that energy. That’s what I bring to the Bucs. I’m not trying to be bigger than what I am. I’m just trying to be me and fit in on this team because at the end of the day I have to be the ultimate team player.”
LSU went on to end UCF’s 25-game consecutive winning streak with a 40-32 triumph in the Fiesta Bowl on January 1 with White leading the way and coming up big in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Playing hard at the end of games is something White takes a great deal of pride in.
“That’s where my new stud’s name comes from – his name is Overdrive,” White said of his new horse. “In the fourth quarter – I train so hard and I train for the moment. I always stay ready for the moment, so in the fourth quarter I really kick it into overdrive. I start going lights out. At the end of the day, everybody else is tired because it’s been a long fight. I played in the SEC and this is the NFL, so this it’s 10 times harder. But at the end of the day I want to be the one that’s still going with a high motor.
“That’s what is going to separate me from a lot of players. That’s one point where I can separate myself because I’m going to be in shape and I’m still going to be making plays when the fourth quarter comes because there ain’t no giving up. That’s where the game can be won – in the fourth quarter.”
White will get an early chance to take on Newton in Carolina on Thursday Night Football in Week 2. And if the game comes down to the fourth quarter expect White to be ready.
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