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white's nfl coming of age a family affair-perajc


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white's nfl coming of age a family affair

renaissance of roddy due to several sources, including three cheering generations in the stands

by steve hummer

the atlanta journal-constitution

published on: 10/21/07

it takes a village to raise some players. in the case of roddy white, the falcons' slow-blooming wide-out, the support staff can look more like times square.

in contrast to the falcons' nosedive, white has decided to stop treating a thrown football like a summons. his catches are up. his drops are way down. if he is not careful, he may soon get a reputation for dependability. this turn in his story could be one of the better team efforts the falcons mount all season.

look first into the seats at the georgia dome, section 117, just four rows from the field. it isn't as much a cheering section as it is a genealogical seminar.

there is white's great-grandmother, helen brown. and his grandmother, rosalee mitchell. and his mother, joenethia white. every falcons home game, white's family goes deep three generations deep. without fail, they'll make the drive from their homes in charleston, s.c., slip into their roddy white jerseys and endure whatever he may face as a playmaker for a 1-5 team.

their jobs are clearly defined. the grandmothers are for nurturing. mom is in charge of the occasional reality electroshock.

drafted in the first round in 2005, white struggled with his concentration and his hands. the low point is bookmarked as a game last year against today's opponent, new orleans. wide open, white dropped a lollipop of a potential touchdown pass. coach jim mora fell to his knees on the sideline. and a snapshot of a season was framed.

"i am his harshest critic," joenethia white said. his grandmothers "will say, 'that's ok, baby, you're doing your best.' but i don't do that. i told him this is a game he was playing since he was 8 years old. you know how to play this game. now stop beating around the bush and go play."

the surround-sound criticism wore on white. "it beat me down pretty good. i was getting it from family and everybody," he said.

there is one caveat. mothers may criticize sons. strangers may not, within her earshot.

recalling an episode when one fan behind her in the stands called out, "roddy white, you ain't [bleep]," joenethia was quick to respond. "he's done more than you have," she yelled back at the heckler. "you're paying $100 to watch him. he ain't paying anything to watch you." she heard no more from the gentleman.

pushed by newcomers

there are too many other targets of opportunity this year for the buzzards to circle white. he was one of the few falcons to make a play monday night against the giants. he leads the team in catches (25) and receiving yards (420). his first two seasons, he caught 45 percent of the balls thrown his way. this year, that number is up to 66 percent through six games.

maybe he is not the bust that so many made him out to be in his first two seasons out of uab. the improvement can be traced to so many sources beyond even the prodding and expectations of his family.

look at the new coaching staff that targeted the young receivers as a problem area. receivers coach paul petrino could pound on white all he wanted after all, the head coach was his brother. and he did, almost to the breaking point, say some witnesses.

"he pushes you to the point that you can break," white said of his position coach. "he just wants to get the most out of you."

"if you work hard and have skills, you should be able to play," paul petrino said. "since i've been here, we've gotten roddy to buy into working hard. and more than anything, if he works hard and goes fast and comes off the ball hard, then he gives himself a chance because he has real good skills."

look into the locker room, where veterans who had been advising white that he needed to take his profession more seriously are finally seeing some results. tight end alge crumpler noticed that he had company now in his physical-therapy sessions long after practice. he noticed that white was more alert during meetings, having not stayed out quite so late the night before.

and the addition of veteran joe horn, while not showing many benefits on the stats sheet, was an immediate boon to white. thirteen years in the league, and horn was still practicing like a scared rookie free agent. the example wasn't lost on the younger generation.

"get your dome back!" horn kept telling them, informing them it was time to reclaim the fans who had written them off. it could be a motto for the season.

"for him to come in here and teach me and mike [jenkins] up has been a big positive for us. we've never had a role model like that," white said.

players began to see a change in how white carried himself, with a new sense of surety. joey harrington wasn't around to see white at his worst, and until being supplanted as starter this week, he was the quarterback who seemed to trust white the most. he saw a receiver who believed he owned the ball.

"week after week, he has really started to show his confidence, and that's great for me because when i see he's playing with confidence, i have confidence in him," harrington said last week. "it's a big circle and all you need is somebody to believe in you."

learning responsibility

and, finally, look to the player himself. ask his mother, she'll tell you that white initially was distracted by living the pro life in atlanta. but rowdy roddy was never going to make it. at 25, he had reached a pivotal point in his trip, deciding to stay over in the right lane just a little more.

white says he has found the meaning of responsibility in his life. his namesake son that's sharod jr. is now a year-and-half old. roddy jr. spends most home-game weekends with his father, white driving him back home to birmingham and the boy's mother on the off day after the game. also, living with him is a 17-year-old cousin, ali white, a nose tackle at mill creek high.

then there's the moment when a person just gets tired of being a punch line.

"i know what kind of player i can be in this league," white said. "it upset me to see people criticize me every day, ask for different players to come in when i know i can get the job done. that hurt me deep down inside.

"i call this the rebirth of my career. they gave me the opportunity to be the go-to guy and step right in. i'm taking it and running with it, and i ain't letting it go."

there is always room for a little personal success amid the falcons' disarray. and in white's case, there are plenty of people to share in it. some in very high places.

"mom is coming in and smiling every day," he said. "every weekend that she comes down i get a lot of smiles now instead of hearing: 'catch the ball.' "

breakthrough

falcons receiver roddy white is already nearing career highs after only six games this season:

year rec. yds td

2005 29 446 3

2006 30 506 0

2007 25 420 1

http://www.ajc.com/falcons/content/sports/...white_1021.html

sorry if already posted, sad.gif

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you know, you would think white has been in the nfl 6 years with the way people treat him

this is his third year, if you look at the games top receivers most of them sucked and sucked hard their first 2 years.

it amazes me how someone can be called a bust after 2 years when it takes 3 years to be good.

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