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Roddy White: ‘Football was my life, and I put it first and just ran with it’

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One of the best to ever put on the uniform will be inducted into the Falcons’ Ring of Honor on Sunday.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

There’s no question that Roddy White deserves to be in the Falcons’ Ring of Honor. He’ll be inducted on Sunday when the Falcons face the Panthers, and he shared some thoughts with the Atlanta media in the days leading up to the ceremony.

White said being acknowledged in the Ring of Honor makes him proud because it speaks to the way he approached his career.

“It’s something that will be there for the rest of my life, and I’m happy. I’m proud about that,” White said. “It speaks about coming to work every day, being a pro, going out there and just doing my job, showing up each and every week, helping your teammates and being the best player you can be.”

White spent 11 years in the NFL after being drafted by the Falcons out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He says those years flew by.

“It’s funny. I always tell people, especially the young kids nowadays that come into the league, I’m like, man, this journey goes really, really fast,” White said. “So make sure you’re paying attention to details and doing everything so you maximize the time that you’re in the NFL, because an 11-year career, that’s just the beginning of somebody’s actual, real life.”

Roddy White was great in part because of the people around him

White developed into one of the league’s best receivers, but he wasn’t one right off the bat. Having veteran leadership and coaches who helped him learn to be a pro made the difference.

“It didn’t start off great, but it started to get hot around Year 3 and stuff like that,” White said. “I learned a lot from my first couple of years in the league, and just learned from the older guys and just learning and leaning on those guys and helping me become a good player. Brian Finneran was on me every day, and the reason was because I wasn’t giving our team my full attention and being the player that I could be. So a lot of times you need guys like that in the locker room and with you each and every day to help you through those hard days, and just going out there and grinding and stuff like that.”

It wan’t just Finneran. Both Joe Horn and Paul Petrino had a profound impact on White early in his career.

“It seemed like every week Paul (Petrino) was on me, just keeping me focused. But I had to learn each and every day that you had to find ways to get better each and every day on the field, and I just took that and from that year on, I just applied what I learned from them and working hard and going out there,” White said. “Joe (Horn) taught me a lot that year — how to be a pro, how to get my body ready, prepared each and every week. I cut out a lot of bad things that I was eating and just focused on football.

“Football was my life, and I put it first and just ran with it. We started winning the year after that (in 2008) and started having a lot of success.”

As his career progressed, Roddy connected with other mentors and leaders who helped him become one of the league’s best.

“In the NFL, you spend a lot of time with your receivers coaches,” White said. “So George Stewart, that came down to Alabama — I mean UAB — every day prior to the draft, and told me how bad they wanted me and how much he wanted me to be a Falcon, and just sitting down there watching tape with me and just showing me one-on-one tapes of Jerry Rice and how hard he worked — practice tapes and stuff like that, implementing (good practice) habits and always making me go against DeAngelo Hall each and every day. It just made me a better player. I thank him for that.”

Former Falcons wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie was important to Roddy.

“Terry Robiskie was a mentor, a father figure for me,” White said. “Outside of football, we’ll sit down and talk things — life — and it just put everything in perspective for me, the people that I had around me, the people that were important to me, and how to focus on those things and separate it from football. So it was important. He was important to me.”

Paul Petrino made Roddy’s list, but Bobby Petrino understandably did not. Mike Smith and Dan Quinn, however, did.

“Smitty kind of took care of me. I think that’s the reason why I was able to play 11 years, not having to do OTAs and stuff like that,” White said. “And kind of like bringing a regimen for me and it was a winning success. We won a lot while he was here. And DQ came in towards the end of my career, and it’s just a reset button for us — him, and his attitude, and the competitive nature each and every day. I think when he got in the building, we competed every day. It didn’t matter if it was in the lunchroom, in the training room — everything was a competition. So I love that element of it. It just brought a new spirit, new energy to the team.”

Roddy White has no interest in playing in the NFL now

Roddy still looks like he’s pretty close to being in game shape, but he has no interest in coming back to the NFL. He’d like to pass that particular torch to his 13-year-old son.

“I still come to games and stuff like that, so when we’re not particularly doing too well I think I can still go out there and still make plays, you know? But no, I’m not having dreams of making a tremendous comeback or anything like that” White said. “I love to watch football. I love this Falcons organization. I support it. So my spirits kind of move with the team. When we’re doing well, I’m in a great mood. When we’re not doing well, I’m just not in a good mood. But no, no comebacks. No comebacks. No dreaming. I dream about my youngest son, who’s about 13 years old now, about him playing in the NFL a lot. We need him to grow a couple of inches, but other than that, I’d pass the torch on.”

Roddy White’s best memory is his first trip to Flowery Branch after being drafted

White says that’s his favorite moment because it changed the course of his life forever.

“The best memory I’ve ever had was walking into this building when I got drafted,” White said. “I just remember Arthur just sending the jet to come get us, and me and my family — me and my mom and my brother getting on the jet and just walking into this building. It was the single greatest moment, because it literally changed my life. Growing up as a kid in South Carolina, not really having anything, and working my butt off just to help my family, and just to see the dream that I always wanted to be an NFL player come true, man, just holding my jersey and my mom was to my right and my brother was — it’s like I’ve still got that picture in my house and every time I walk by it, it still brings chills to me, because that was the day my life changed.”

Roddy White’s a Falcons fan, and he’s just as disappointed as the rest of us

This season has mostly been an abject disaster, and it’s been just as hard for Roddy as it has been for every other Falcons fan.

“It’s been tough. You go through times like this, and you get tested. And that’s when team’s gotta respond,” White said. “I think Dan’s a good coach. I really have a lot of respect for him and the things he’s done for our organization, taking us on a Super Bowl run, and then the next year, taking us on a playoff run. These last two years haven’t (gone) so well for us. We’ve had injuries and things like that, and this season hasn’t gone well for us in respect to the win column.”

But Roddy doesn’t think that’s for a lack of trying.

“I think we’re playing well. I think we’re playing hard, and we’re just not getting the results; we’re not making enough plays in each and every game for a win,” White said. “It’s tough, man. Like I said, I root for these guys faithfully, and it’s tough when we’re not winning. I’m not as excited and the temperature of the city is not as excited. So it’s tough. It’s tough. I’ve still got a lot of friends on this team, so I talk to them on a week-to-week basis. Going through seasons like that, it’s a tough run. But we’ll figure it out.”

White keeps in close contact with current Falcons players

The former wideout has some advice for the Falcons this year.

“I always tell them, ‘You’re always being evaluated, whether you’re winning or losing.’ It’s always an evaluation process, so you never want to go out there and put bad film out there,” White said. “If somebody after, the next guy — the next GM or the next coach — they’re going to watch these tapes, and people around the league watch these tapes, too. So you’ve got to put positive things on tape so everybody can get positive feedback from you as an individual. These players are their own entity, so you have to go out there and produce on and off the field, be a good teammate in and out of the locker room, because people want to know those things if they want that player on their team.”

Roddy White has no aspirations to coach in the NFL

Coaching in the NFL is a high-pressure gig with very little job security. That’s a hard pass from Roddy.

“I coach at John’s Creek High School. Now, if you’re asking me if I want to coach in the NFL, it’s never going to happen,” White said. “I’m never going to spend 12, 18 hours in the building. That is never going to happen. Those guys work hard each and every day. I like having vacations and, like, leaving. They don’t get to do that too often. So my aspirations of being an NFL coach right now are zero. I have zero aspirations to do it. It’s a tough job, man, and that game is a win-now league, so if you don’t win now for three years, you get fired. Now you’ve got to go find another job. I just don’t want to do that. So yeah, I’m a coach at John’s Creek High School. I think my job security is pretty good over there.”

Roddy’s still willing to talk some trash during Saints week

Roddy is outspoken, and he’s never been afraid to let folks know how he feels about anything, including the New Orleans Saints. When D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution told White that Saints weeks are boring because nobody on the roster talks any trash, White let us know he was still willing to help out with that.

“They didn’t get y’all no bulletin board material? You should have just come to my house, man,” White said. “I would have given you some.”

White is one of the most talented and fun players in Falcons history, and his inclusion in the Ring of Honor is well deserved. Congratulations, Roddy, and thanks for everything.