WEST LONG BRANCH – Long before defensive end Nick White stepped foot on the Monmouth University campus this January after transferring in from Gannon University, he was already very familiar with his surroundings.
White’s older brother, Reggie White Jr., is a legend at Monmouth University after setting Monmouth’s all-time record in career receptions and receiving yards and being named to four different organization's FCS All-American teams. So, with Reggie making headlines at Monmouth, the White family would often make the trip up from Maryland to West Long Branch to watch their son and brother play on Saturdays.
“I always wanted to be a Hawk, honestly,” White said. “We used to come here almost every weekend to watch Reggie play and since then I always wanted to be a Hawk. It’s just a great fit for me and I just love it here.
“I looked up to Reggie, I wanted to do everything he did, and he came up here and broke records. I’ve tried to achieve things like that and now I’m trying to do something like that here at Monmouth,” White said.
White Jr. wore number nine at Monmouth and Nick will wear number nine this season for the Hawks.
Four and a half years apart in age, the two brothers never got to play together on the same team.
“That was always a goal of mine but unfortunately it never worked out as planned, but I’m here now and I’m ready to ball up with coach Callahan (Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan,)” White said.
The timing of White’s arrival in West Long Branch could not have come at a better time for the Hawks defense. They’ve struggled the past few years at getting pressure up front and sacking the quarterback and rushing the passer is the 6-foot-4, 260-pound White’s forte.
“That was something that we talked about,” White said of Monmouth’s lack of a pass rush. “I wanted to come here and help and do the best I can to get sacks, TFL or whatever you got to do to win games. I just like playing football and doing my job. If that’s rushing the quarterback when I can and show my speed and my ability to get the sack or TFL, that’s what I’m here for.”
White definitely comes from a strong bloodline. In high school at Milford Mill Academy in Maryland, he was coached by his father Regie White, who was a 1992 sixth-round draft pick of the Chargers out of North Carolina A&T, playing three seasons for the Bolts, including a trip to Super Bowl XXIX against a juggernaut 49ers team. He ended his career with the Patriots in 1995.
The elder White, who began his head coaching stint at Milford Mill Academy in 2002 and is still at the helm, won the Maryland Class 2A championship last season, going 14-0 for its second championship in program history, and first since 1987 when White was a star defensive lineman on the team.
In 2017, Nick’s senior season at Milford Mill Academy, the Millers lost in the Class 3A state final by one point.
Nick White was an All-Baltimore County selection and named to the Baltimore Touchdown Club’s All-Star game that year after anchoring the offensive line at guard and at defensive end recording 48 tackles (28 solo), with 15 TFL and nine sacks his senior season.
“It was awesome, I loved playing for my dad,” White said. “We got along well. There are always tough days we went through, but it was some of the best years of my life being able to be on the field with him. I learned the game from him and being around all that knowledge taught me a lot. I keep in touch with him all the time and he’s been up here for a couple practices and he’s going to be in New Jersey a lot.”
White was recently inducted into the Maryland High School Coaches Hall of Fame.
“Really, to tell you the truth, it’s one of the toughest things a coach goes through when you have to coach your own son,” White said. “It has its ups, and it has its downs. But I did get to spend more time with my son than most and I’d do it all over again, I definitely would.”
When asked if he was tougher on Nick than others on the team White said, “Absolutely, 100 percent - him and his brother. I was definitely tougher on those two than anybody else.
“I could do that because I knew who their parents were,” White joked.
White feels his son is a born leader and saw those leadership traits in him early on in his football career.
“He was captain, he led all our drills and was more or less my right arm to the team,” White said. “He led by example and the team listened to what he had to say. In 2017, when we lost in the championship game by a point, he was the one comforting those players who were so upset they were crying.”
White has no doubt his son will bolster Monmouth’s pass rush.
“He’s a skilled professional at rushing the passer," White said of his son, Nick. "He works on his pass rush moves on me and I’m a big guy, so I know he’s ready from the slaps he’s giving me. He pays attention to detail and works hard, works out like crazy and I believe everything he’s going to get is well deserved.”
Gannon University recruited White hard and after visiting the campus, meeting with the coaching staff and seeing their facilities he was sold.
“I took a visit up there and liked what I saw and after that everything was history,” White said.
“Nick made a huge impact on the field as a super explosive defensive end,” Gannon University head coach Erik Raeburn said. “He made huge impact on the field, but he made maybe even a bigger one on our team in terms of our culture and the leadership he provided. Everything he did he did with 100 percent effort and was always excited to be at the workout or practice or film session. His positive attitude and work ethic I felt rubbed off on everyone else on the team; just an awesome human being.”
White was a two-time All-PSAC first team selection while at Gannon, leading the team in TFL each of his four seasons there. His senior season, he led the team in TFL (15.5) and sacks (6.5) along with 47 tackles (19 solo), three pass deflections and a forced fumble. For his career, he totaled 170 tackles (72 solo), 44 TFL and 19.5 sacks.
“I think he’ll even better this year than he was last year, and he had a great year for us last year and the year before,” Raeburn said. “He works so hard, I’m sure he’s a little bit stronger and quicker now and I’m sure his technique has improved a little bit. Guys that work hard like that just always keep getting better every year. Even though he played at a very high level for us last year, I think he’ll play even better this year.”
With one year of eligibility left following his senior year at Gannon, White, who graduated from Gannon in December, entered the transfer portal and soon after his dream of playing DI football at Monmouth University became a reality.
“After my last season at Gannon, I wanted to play up a level at DI,” White said. “That was always a dream of mine, so I talked to my coaches, and they talked to me about it, and they were okay with it. So, I was like that’s something I want to do. I got offers from a bunch of schools, but Monmouth was a place I was already familiar with, and I always wanted to be a Hawk, honestly, so it’s just a great fit for me and just love it here.”
For his teammates and coaching staff at Gannon it was hard to see White leave but they’re 100 percent behind him and rooting for him to have a great year at Monmouth.
“Obviously, we didn’t want to lose him for sure, but he had worked so hard for us and helped us turn the program around so we happy for him,” Raeburn said of White’s departure. “Obviously it was sad for us, he had done so many great things while he was here, but everyone here is cheering for him to do well and excited for him to have this opportunity.”
The elder White left the decision on where to transfer up to his son and was ecstatic when he decided to transfer to Monmouth.
“He lived a life at Monmouth and was always up there when Reggie was playing, so it was like coming home,” White said. “He was recruited by Delaware and Villanova among others, but after visiting them he came home and said, ‘Dad, in the words of my older brother, I’m ready to be a Hawk.’ That’s what Reggie said too, so he called coach Callahan and told him.”
Although he’s only been on campus since January, White has been a coach’s dream as he’s navigated his way through his transition from Gannon to Monmouth.
“The number one thing you get with Nick is leadership,” Monmouth defensive line coach David Kunyz said. “He’s going to do everything the right way, he’s going to prepare the right way both on and off the field. He’ll do anything he needs to do to be successful. He’s hungry and wants to leave his mark here at Monmouth.
“Obviously, his brother played here, so he’s had familiarity with the program," Kunyz said. "He’s a son of a coach, his dad coaches’ high school, so naturally he’s been able to fit in and do everything the right way. The biggest thing is he came in mid-year. So, he had the whole off-season, spring ball and was able to acclimate himself. Right now, even though he’s only been here for less than a year, he’s one of the leaders on the defensive line. He’s one of two or three guys that will command the group, get the guys right and hold everyone accountable.”
Kunyz was asked just how much he thinks White will help the Hawks pass rush this season.
“Tremendously, that’s his number one ability to rush the passer," Kunyz said about White's pass-rushing ability. "We knew when we brought him in that was going to be his role at the very least. He’s an every down player for us and is just as good in the run as he is as a pass rusher. With his length and size, he’ll be able to help us in more ways than just a pass rusher.”
Now it’s up to White to live up to his billing and take his game to another level here at Monmouth; I personally, have no doubt he will.
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