Former Gopher Greg White, after working gigs in and out of football, has found a place in Tampa Bay.
Former Gophers defensive end Greg White busted up laughing when asked what he's been doing since the Houston Texans drafted him in the seventh round in 2002.
"Man," he said, "your cell phone doesn't have a big enough battery for the Greg White story."
White always was good for a quote. And a smile. And making Saturdays miserable for Big Ten quarterbacks. But he never seemed quite good enough to bring any of that to an active NFL roster.
"You know I got cut by the Texans [in training camp in 2002], right?" White said. "And then I was on the practice squads in Tampa, Atlanta, Tennessee, New Orleans, Washington, back to New Orleans and back to Washington."
And I saw him in Bears camp last year.
"Oh yeah, and Chicago," White said with another laugh. "The Bears sent me to NFL Europe. I led that league in sacks [seven], but the Bears cut me."
White also gave the Canadian Football League a try. And the Arena Football League, where he won 2007 AFL Defensive Player of the Year honors while setting a league record with 15 sacks in the spring.
"There was a point where I was back home in New Jersey and I was telling my agent, 'I'm done with football,'" White said. "I wasn't interested in trying out for this NFL team or that NFL team. I had been there, done that. But different opportunities in different leagues kept popping up."
White's AFL opportunity finally opened the door to the NFL. White played for the Orlando Predators, who are coached by Jay Gruden, the brother of Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden.
"I owe Jay Gruden everything," White said. "He was the only coach who believed in me."
Today, White essentially is a 28-year-old rookie for the Bucs.
"Actually, I prefer 'first-year' player," White said. "Some guys want to put the 'rookie' label on me, but I tell them, 'Dude, this might be my first time on a 53-man roster, but I got drafted in 2002!"
White leads the Bucs in sacks with 5½ -- two more than No. 4 overall draft pick Gaines Adams -- and is tied for first in forced fumbles with four. He had a sack, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as the surprising Bucs (7-4) maintained a two-game lead in the NFC South with a 19-16 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
And, oh yeah, White also is making $285,000, the NFL minimum for rookies and first-year players.
"I don't care what anybody says, that's a lot of money," White said. "I couldn't be happier. I go around saying, 'LG' all the time. You know the electronics company, LG? Well, my LG stands for 'Life's Good.'"
When football wasn't paying the bills the past five years, White had to make due with jobs that most NFL players never have experienced. He worked as a front-door greeter at Best Buy. He delivered pizza. He lugged 45-pound bottles of water up flights of stairs as a water delivery man in New York City.
"That one wasn't bad," White said. "I was making about $47,500. That's pretty good money."
White's worst job was in Ashland, Ohio, where his children and their mother live.
"You know the show Laverne & Shirley, how they worked on that assembly line?" White said. "That was me. Kerry Foods in Ashland, Ohio. I just got released by the Redskins and I needed a job. It was my job to put the caps on the tops of these bottles. I think it was syrup bottles."
White was making $7 an hour, but didn't last long.
"I got fired," he said. "When I'd go on a lunch break and come back, I'd always forget to put my hair net back on. Finally, they just got rid of me. I don't think I had the attitude they were looking for."
Kerry Foods' loss was the Bucs' gain.
"I can't complain," White said. "Some of my teammates can't believe my story, but everybody's got a story. Mine is 'LG.' You call my cell and the message says, 'This is Greg White. Life's good. Holla.'"
Mark Craig email@example.com
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