Once he returned from a knee injury after missing Weeks 3-5, it didn’t take long for Devin White to establish himself as not just the best rookie that the Bucs had, but rather one of the most impactful players on Tampa Bay’s defense.
White capped off an impressive rookie year by winning Defensive Rookie Of The Month in November and December. We saw the type of player that White can be by season’s end, but if you ask him, he knew he was going to be great from day one.
“One thing about me is I got all the confidence in the world in my ability,” White said. “I always know when I walk in the room, it don’t matter what type of people, I could be at the Kentucky Derby, I could be at a room full of millionaires, billionaires, I could be in a room with Christians or this type of person and I know I belong because I’m a great guy and I know whatever that I’m trying to achieve I’m going to work super hard at it.
“I’m going to dedicate myself to it so when I know it’s time to perform or time to be around that group of people, I know I belong. The minute I stepped in the locker room and we got ready for rookie minicamp and then went into OTAs I already was comfortable, I felt good. The thing it was was just taking the next step. I always had the confidence in myself.”
It’s the utmost confidence that White possesses that also makes him believe that the Bucs’ defense is the best part of the team, even after the Bucs added Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to the offense in 2020. White wants the Bucs defense to be the one who’s finishing games.
“I still feel that [way],” White said. “Before we signed Tom or Gronk, both of those guys, me and coach Bowles – we always said in the offseason as we’ve been talking and preparing that we were gonna be the ones to carry the team, the team is gonna go as far as we go. We got to always want to put the game on our back. We want it to come down to that the offense is going to score, we got to stop the other team. We want the game to be on us at the end of the game because we know we’re gonna come through, we just know that much about ourself, we believe that much in ourself as far as a defensive unit and everybody saw what we did last year and that was our first year together with a new coaching staff and everything, new players, young players, a couple vets and now we want to build off that.
Besides his overwhelming confidence, White prides himself on two other big components – preparation and self motivation. As he gets ready for the 2020 season, White is looking to learn more each day and become the player that other teammates look to for advice.
“That was my biggest thing is I wanted to always be treated like a vet last year because I always feel like prepared like a vet,” White said. “I put in the time and I know it started paying off when I came back from my injury. As far as the offseason, I just kind of became closer with my inside linebacker coach and becoming more of a student of the game so I can better control stuff when I’m on the field and guys can lean on me in certain situations.
“I know that guys that usually tend to play the best ball usually be the smartest guys on the field. I try to make sure I establish myself as one of the smartest guys on the field when I’m playing ball.”
When it comes to motivation, that has always come from within. So if the NFL finds itself in a situation where there can’t be fans in attendance because of the coronavirus, it shouldn’t be a problem for the former LSU linebacker.
“At the end of the day I’m a football player,” White said. “I love playing football and so I don’t need all the hullabaloo to make me go out and make a play, I thrive off my own motivation, my own mindset. I just want to be dominate, just want to have fun because football is fun so I think I thrive off myself, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem. A crowd makes you play better, but that can’t be the only thing.”
No matter what facet of the game it is, White is constantly looking to make himself a better football player than he was before.
“The thing is I just can’t never get complacent,” White said. “And that’s one thing about me, I study the game, I reach out to a lot of people, I’m always trying to find ways to get better because I know as far as my game, there’s no ceilings. I can keep getting better and better because somebody is going to find my weakness and I’ma have to get better so I’m out to find my own weakness and try to extort my own weakness before somebody else does it on Sunday. I’m always looking to get better.