By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
We have reached that time of year when the National Football League teams begin opening their training camps and, with that in mind, it is time to begin wondering just what fate holds for Patrick White.
The tendency around America is to simply write off the experiment of Pat White as an NFL quarterback, to note that his rookie season produced nothing of note, him last being seen carted off the field with a concussion and without yet having completed his first professional pass.
How many people were saying “I told you so,” that White could not play quarterback at the highest level, that he could throw well enough and was not big enough and that even as “Wildcat” quarterback he would fail?
To them, however, let us offer a word of caution.
There were a whole lot of people who said that Patrick White could not play quarterback in college, too.
That is how West Virginia got him, benefiting from his confidence in himself and Rich Rodriguez’s confidence in him.
True, he did not throw well when he arrived, but that did not stop those who saw him during his redshirt season from knowing there was something special there.
“I used to check him out during practice,” former quarterback Rasheed Marshall said. “He was a young guy at the time but I would see the things that he does in practice and I would say to myself, ‘He’s going to be the real deal.’”
The problem was then and still is now that White is a different kind of quarterback than the NFL is used to, even though it has used the likes of Michael Vick and Vince Young, more from forcing them to change their game to the NFL’s rather than the NFL changing its game to fit them.
Mike Sherwood, the first WVU quarterback to throw for 400 yards in a game when he did so against Pitt in 1968, was among the first to explain just how unique White is.
“He plays a game that none of the others have ever played here,” Sherwood said. “He’s one of the guys when you watch him play you kind of always think you’ve seen it all and then you see something else that he does. You are thinking, ‘How did he do that?’”
And there’s no reason that can’t happen in the NFL. Right now, of course, he’s fighting for his professional life, in a battle for the backup job to Chad Henne with Tyler Thigpen. What’s more, he enters that battle with many thinking he is a bust.
But do not count him out.
As it was in college, a challenge was laid down before him. If he could not change the NFL to his game, then he would make his game fit the NFL’s.
During the off-season, Patrick White added 20 pounds of hard, lean muscle. If he was going to fail, it wasn’t going to be because of something he could control like his physique.
And it wasn’t going to be because of his passing, either.
White always has been one to work on his weaknesses, to find a way to strengthen them. If you think of the quarterback who came into West Virginia as compared to the one who exited, you know just how much progress he made throwing the ball.
That it turns out Rich Rodriguez was not a genius in creating a throwing quarterback should be no surprise, so White went into “The League” with pronounced flaws that have taken a couple of years to get out of his game.
But now they are gone.
This was running back Ricky Williams’ assessment of White when camp began:
“Pat White, no question, is our most improved player. He’s a quarterback now.”
It’s now up to White to convince the coaching staff in Miami what he has convinced Ricky Williams to believe. He should get ample opportunity, for no NFL team likes to believe it wasted a second-round draft selection.
But really, the most important thing is for White to get a chance to play more than sparingly, for the one thing he is best at is winning football games. He finds a way, given a chance ... and that is added for those who want to bring up the upset by Pitt for White was both injured and hamstrung by the play calling.
“That’s the ultimate measure at the end of the day,” former WVU quarterback Oliver Luck, now athletic director, said while White played here. “That’s all that matters. Statistics are nice and he certainly has put up some unbelievable numbers but the most impressive number is the number of wins he’s had as a quarterback.”
And that, in the end, is what they are looking for most in the NFL — wins.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.