Goober Pyle

Roddy White on Falcons, trauma, coaching kids and going into ‘Ring of Honor’

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https://theathletic.com/1432153/2019/12/04/schultz-roddy-white-on-falcons-trauma-coaching-kids-and-going-into-ring-of-honor/

 

Sharod Lamor “Roddy” White relatively “flew under the radar” in his young football life, growing up in James Island, S.C., and later playing at Alabama-Birmingham. It was all fun and no pressure. It wasn’t until he was drafted into the NFL by the Falcons in 2005 that he first felt the weight of expectations.

“The first time I felt pressure was when I was walking onto the field for OTAs with Mike (Vick), and it seemed like there were 1,000 people there, and they’re saying, ‘Finally, Mike’s got someone to throw the ball to.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, God,’” White said.

But White did just fine. After a struggling career start that saw him drop passes and not listen to coaches and teammates when they criticized his focus or practice habits, White matured, went on to play 11 seasons and became a four-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro. He led the NFL in receptions in 2010 and strung together six straight 1,000-yard seasons (2007-12), a span in which he averaged 94 catches for 1,295 yards. He was consistent and played through injuries and eclipsed 10,000 yards, finishing with 808 receptions for 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns.

The Falcons are struggling through the misery of a 3-9 season. They’ll reach back to better times Sunday when White is inducted into their “Ring of Honor” during halftime ceremonies of the Carolina game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In a near two-hour conversation with The Athletic, which has been edited down, White touched on a number of subjects, including the current state of the Falcons and the locker room’s lack of leadership, being cut the offseason before the team’s Super Bowl season, dealing with the trauma of his younger brother being shot and killed in Charleston, the recent passing of his grandmother, the 2016 Super Bowl collapse and his desire to fight Kyle Shanahan, his Las Vegas misadventures and more.

Most of White’s time is now occupied by his five children, ages 14 to 8, being a volunteer receivers coach at Johns Creek High School and running his summer youth camp.

Anything else?

“I want to be a pilot,” he said. “But they say you have to fly the little small planes before you get to the big boys. With all these simulators nowadays, why?”

So you think because you play video games, you could just jump in and fly a 787?

“If I had to.”

He hasn’t changed.

When White gives his acceptance speech Sunday, he said he’ll reflect on his former teammates and coaches but he mostly will think about Rosalee Mitchell, his late grandmother who passed in June after a long battle with cancer. Rosalee was the matriarch of the family and helped raise Roddy when his young mother had to work.

“She kept everything together for us,” he said. “Everything was positive. I could call her and have a conversation about anything. When she passed away, I felt so bad. We were going to see all the doctors, trying to hold onto a miracle, but I could hear her say, ‘Roddy, it’s OK. I’m going to be fine. I just need you to continue to be who you are.’”

Here’s more from my conversation with White, including some insightful comments about today’s team.

So you’re coaching now?

We made it to the second round of the playoffs. Back-to-back region champs. I’ve been doing it for three years. I always wanted to work with kids. When I was in the league I did a lot of stuff with the Boys & Girls Club, which was fun. You get to hear a lot of stories from the kids in the community, and you get a breakdown of their situations. It reminded me of when I was growing up. Fortunately, I had a slew of people in the neighborhood helping when my mom was working, so I could go someplace and get some food. I love coaching, just watching these kids grow up and excel. I’ve had a couple go on to play in college.

It’s hard to imagine you as a coach

It’s totally different. Now I understand coaches and their mentality and trying to figure out players and what they’re best at doing. It’s tough when you’re in the film room with a player, and they don’t see what you see. We’re like on two different wavelengths. They’re like, “I can do everything.” And I’m watching it through a coaching lens and thinking, “No, you can’t.”

Compare Player Roddy vs. Coach Roddy.

Player Roddy thought he could do everything. There’s nothing on the field I couldn’t do. But coaching Roddy understands all the limitations and what position I should’ve put myself in and how I should’ve handled things differently. I regret some of those conversations I had with coaches. If I could go back and change it, I would. Me and (receivers coach) Terry (Robiskie) used to always get into arguments, especially when the schedule got to November, and it started getting cold, and I didn’t want to practice. Of course, that affects your performance in the game. You see that as a coach. Now I’m telling players, “You’ve got to get these reps.” (My name) carries a lot of cache. But this is Generation X. Their life is like a highlight reel, and they want success instantaneously because everything has been given to them so fast. These kids will make two or three plays in a game, and then they’ll put it on the internet.

So what’s it like for a kid from James Island and UAB to be honored like this. You’re only the 11th player in the Ring of Honor.

I’m in the starting 11! I made the cut! It feels good. But to tell the truth, it really hasn’t sunk in. Prior to this, I was just playing football, wrapped up in the moment, trying to win games, trying to win a Super Bowl.

Did you ever see this coming?

I didn’t see playing 11 years, especially not the way I started. I was terrible. I kind of flew under the radar before the NFL, and it was fun. The first time I felt pressure was when I was walking onto the field for OTAs with Mike (Vick), and it seemed like there were 1,000 people there, and they’re saying, “Finally, Mike’s got someone to throw the ball to.” And I’m like, “Oh, God.”  I wanted it so much. But I didn’t understand what my job was. I wanted to eat the whole cake. Coach (Jim) Mora used to tell me, “You’re not here to win the games. We just need you to make a couple of big plays.” But in my eyes, I win games, it’s what I did, it was my time. I butted heads with Greg Knapp. I told him he didn’t know what he’s doing and he didn’t know how to use me. I was a 22-year-old kid, and here I am telling this guy he didn’t know anything.

When did it turn?

When Coach Mora got fired. I felt like my security blanket was gone. It just got real. I was worried. I remember before my third year I went to the facility and punched in my code (for the gate), and it didn’t work. I sat outside. I called my agent, and I’m like, “My code don’t work. I think I just got released.” He said, “No you haven’t.” It turns out I just had to pick a new code. That was my awakening.

You liked Mora. What about Bobby Petrino?

I didn’t have much interaction with him. We just didn’t talk much. And then he just left. Adversity strikes in every season, and things can go either way. I felt like for three or four weeks before he left, he was already out the door. He was like, “I didn’t come here for this.” He came here thinking he was going to get Mike Vick, and when he didn’t get him, it was, “I’m onto my next adventure.

What about Mike Smith?

He was my guy. Each and every week he pushed me to be the guy and lead the troops. He was a stand-up guy. I had Jim Mora all over again, but we were winning. He felt like an extension of the players.

You only had one year with Dan Quinn.

Dan was cool. He was a good coach. Fiery. Everything was a competition. It was fun. It was saucy.

If you made it to 12 seasons, you would’ve been in the Super Bowl.

I thought about it every second of that season. Especially toward the end of the year when they were on a roll and scoring like 40 a game, I was thinking, “I wish I could’ve been a part of that.” It was special. I was going to all the games. I was enjoying the run. That was the first year of Julio (Jones) taking over and being a leader in the wide receiver room without me being there. That was big for me, knowing I did a good job mentoring him.

You and Julio were like brothers from Day 1.

He’s such a good guy. He’s so cerebral. He sees everything. He would just watch me a lot, even when I was talking to the media because he wasn’t a big talker.

You were there for each other in some tough times.

My brother got shot (in 2014), and then his brother got shot maybe six days later. It brought us even closer together. He came to South Carolina for my brother’s funeral, and then he went back to Alabama to see his brother (who survived but lost an arm). Life is short, man. You never know what you’re going to go through.

How close were you to your brother, Tyrone Moore Jr.?

We grew up together. We were 11 years apart, so I was changing diapers and babysitting forever. It was the toughest thing I ever went through in my life. You can never fill a void like that, when somebody’s been around you your entire life and now you have to live without them. The first three or four years I was just mentally exhausted. I was crushed. When you have birthdays or things like that, it’s tough. I used to talk to him after every game because he would watch the games. A lot of times after games I would break down and cry because I was waiting for that call from him, and that call ain’t coming. It was heartbreaking. It was tough on my mom, watching her go through that. That did something to me. It made me a different person, and I think football became secondary.

You’re still a fan and go to the games. What are your thoughts on this year’s team?

I feel bad for Dan because he’s taken the brunt of what’s happened. Nothing has been consistent since the Super Bowl. We keep moving coaches. We keep trying to find ways to change things instead of just being consistent. Sometimes you’re going to have bad years, and things just aren’t going to go right. That was last year for us when guys kept getting hurt. It’s different this year, but there’s so much turnover in the staff. I don’t know how you get better as a group of individuals when you keep hearing different voices. That’s one thing I hate about the NFL. I think Dan’s a good coach.

So what does it tell you when you see players underachieving?

I always tell people: You have to have leaders in your locker room. When it gets to that level of under-performing, it’s because you don’t have people holding them accountable. It’s not a talent issue. It’s an accountability issue. We’ve got a bunch of young guys, and everybody wants to play young guys. But they don’t know how to win. They just don’t. They’re trying to learn how to win, and the cost is somebody’s going to lose their job. We have a leadership issue in our locker room. We don’t have enough guys in those roles who’ve been in those fires and fought and made it through those fires. Yeah, everybody wants the young guys. But those are the guys who are going to get you beat because they won’t make those one, two or three plays. They needed somebody like Sean Weatherspoon. We had Mike Peterson for a few years, and that guy was the best thing that ever happened to our defense.

You sound like a consultant.

That’s what we need — consultants. You don’t even have to play.

Are you up for the job?

Naw, I don’t have time. Listen, I left, and the guy I mentored, Julio, is doing what he’s doing. I’m done.

Why is it so important to have those guys?

What people don’t understand about football players is they have so many insecurities, and the only way you (overcome) those insecurities is by speaking to people who’ve already been through that and understand how you feel emotionally. When I was here, I would talk to Joe Horn, and he would tell me about everything I was going through. He would tell me, “We need to find a way to get you back to your happy place.” I’m serious. People don’t understand, you’re a human being. ****’s happening. If you’re having problems off the field and you’re having trouble transitioning on the field, it’s a problem. I’ve been there. Eight seconds after a play, I’m there thinking about **** I have to do after the game. You need someone to help navigate you though that.

The Falcons don’t have that now?

If you’re talking to a young guy over here, he’s giving you bad advice. You’re getting advice from someone the same age as you. Like, “Forget that ****. Let’s just go ball.” What does that mean? Seriously, I don’t even know what that means. That’s what’s happening.

I did a podcast with you, and you said you told Julio that if you were in the Super Bowl and Kyle Shanahan kept sending in pass plays late in the game, you would’ve jumped offsides to kill the play.

And I would’ve. Or I just wouldn’t have run the play. We would not have thrown the ball if I was in that game. I would’ve gone to Coach Quinn and said, “Just run the ball three times, and let’s get out of here.” We were at the finish line. I was so excited for the parade on Peachtree. I was like, “It’s going down.” The NFL humbles you, and it tells you year to year that it doesn’t matter what you accomplished the year before.

You also said on a podcast that you wanted to fight Kyle.

I did. And you know what: Do you know how many calls I got after that game?

From friends?

From players in that locker room. They wanted to fight Kyle. I got at least least eight calls — and those were just guys on the offensive side of the ball. They couldn’t believe it. Somebody should’ve jumped offsides.

Didn’t Julio leave tickets for you but you bagged the trip after losing $60,000 playing blackjack in Las Vegas?

I was still going to go. But the guy who I was renting the jet from screwed me. I had won like $30,000 the day before so I took half that and put it as a down payment on the private jet to go to Houston. Then the next day I started gambling, and I didn’t care how much I was spending because I put a bet down on the game, like $80,000, and I figured I was going to win all my money back. Charles Barkley put down like more than $100,000; it was crazy. But the plane we were supposed to take to Houston, he gave it to somebody else. He didn’t have a jet for us until like 8 p.m. (after the start of the game). I wasn’t happy. So I watched the game in Las Vegas. But if they won, I was gonna use the jet to bring some of the guys back to Las Vegas.

In retrospect, are you happy you weren’t at the game?

I probably would’ve gotten into a fight if I was there.

There were a lot of stories about everybody butting heads with Kyle Shanahan in 2015, which was your final season. How bad was it?

He had his vision, and that’s how he wanted things to go. The most frustrating thing for me was the communication barrier from me to Dan to him. I would talk to Dan about how I was going to be used, and then Kyle would still do his own thing. It was especially frustrating early in the season because they brought in Leonard Hankerson to take my role, and that didn’t work out, and I felt I could’ve helped win some of those games.

Any thoughts on Shanahan succeeding now as a head coach?

They’re doing well. Their GM has done a good job building from the inside out. You can always find skill guys. Kyle hasn’t worked with a lot of (elite receivers) other than Julio and Andre Johnson. It’s more like, “This guy’s fast. This guy’s big. I need this guy to run these routes and this guy to run those routes.” He believes he can scheme people to get them open. A lot of it is just play-action and things coming off it. The passing game is a lot of bunch formations, movement, crossing routes and things like that.

Were you satisfied with the way your career ended? You could’ve possibly gone to Tennessee, Tampa Bay or Minnesota, but you said you wanted to play for a Super Bowl contender. New England talked to you at some point, but that fell through.

I didn’t see my end coming like that. I didn’t think I’d be cast out like that. I sort of saw myself playing and the just retiring. But I didn’t feel like I was really missing anything when it was over, except for walking through the door and seeing the guys. The only accomplishment I didn’t have was winning a Super Bowl.

 

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Roddy is my all time favorite. It's interesting to hear him say he received so many calls from guys after his comments. I'm sure they felt that way too but you didn't hear much publicly from anyone. Surprisingly the only player I can really remember calling Kyle out somewhat is Matt Ryan. I guess because he received the brunt of the blame for not audibling.

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4 minutes ago, Dem Birds said:

Roddy is my all time favorite. It's interesting to hear him say he received so many calls from guys after his comments. I'm sure they felt that way too but you didn't hear much publicly from anyone. Surprisingly the only player I can really remember calling Kyle out somewhat is Matt Ryan. I guess because he received the brunt of the blame for not audibling.

That's VERY interesting!

Now I got to find out what he said. I never knew this.

Dem Birds and Flying Falcon like this

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1 hour ago, Halcon-1 said:

That's VERY interesting!

Now I got to find out what he said. I never knew this.

He didn't call him out negatively so much but he made it known why he didn't audible to run plays. He talked about how the system didn't have as many audibles and whatnot but also made it known that Kyle wasn't getting the plays in fast enough to allow him to survey the defense and make those changes. 

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30 minutes ago, Dem Birds said:

He didn't call him out negatively so much but he made it known why he didn't audible to run plays. He talked about how the system didn't have as many audibles and whatnot but also made it known that Kyle wasn't getting the plays in fast enough to allow him to survey the defense and make those changes. 

He also said we weren’t being aggressive by passing . It would have been more aggressive to run the ball and Eat the clock

Chitown2ATL_Falcon likes this

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This is why I miss my guy:

 

I did a podcast with you, and you said you told Julio that if you were in the Super Bowl and Kyle Shanahan kept sending in pass plays late in the game, you would’ve jumped offsides to kill the play.

And I would’ve. Or I just wouldn’t have run the play. We would not have thrown the ball if I was in that game. I would’ve gone to Coach Quinn and said, “Just run the ball three times, and let’s get out of here.” We were at the finish line. I was so excited for the parade on Peachtree. I was like, “It’s going down.” The NFL humbles you, and it tells you year to year that it doesn’t matter what you accomplished the year before.

You also said on a podcast that you wanted to fight Kyle.

I did. And you know what: Do you know how many calls I got after that game?

From friends?

From players in that locker room. They wanted to fight Kyle. I got at least least eight calls — and those were just guys on the offensive side of the ball. They couldn’t believe it. Somebody should’ve jumped offsides."

 

Real talk right here!!!!

NCFalconfan likes this

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This here:

 

There were a lot of stories about everybody butting heads with Kyle Shanahan in 2015, which was your final season. How bad was it?

He had his vision, and that’s how he wanted things to go. The most frustrating thing for me was the communication barrier from me to Dan to him. I would talk to Dan about how I was going to be used, and then Kyle would still do his own thing. It was especially frustrating early in the season because they brought in Leonard Hankerson to take my role, and that didn’t work out, and I felt I could’ve helped win some of those games.

 

 

See, this is what I was talking about. Kyle didnt listen to nobody, not even Dan. And Dan didnt have a spine to make his listen to him. Dan Quinn is spineless, just like Jim Mora Jr.

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41 minutes ago, Flying Falcon said:

This is why I miss my guy:

 

I did a podcast with you, and you said you told Julio that if you were in the Super Bowl and Kyle Shanahan kept sending in pass plays late in the game, you would’ve jumped offsides to kill the play.

And I would’ve. Or I just wouldn’t have run the play. We would not have thrown the ball if I was in that game. I would’ve gone to Coach Quinn and said, “Just run the ball three times, and let’s get out of here.” We were at the finish line. I was so excited for the parade on Peachtree. I was like, “It’s going down.” The NFL humbles you, and it tells you year to year that it doesn’t matter what you accomplished the year before.

You also said on a podcast that you wanted to fight Kyle.

I did. And you know what: Do you know how many calls I got after that game?

From friends?

From players in that locker room. They wanted to fight Kyle. I got at least least eight calls — and those were just guys on the offensive side of the ball. They couldn’t believe it. Somebody should’ve jumped offsides."

 

Real talk right here!!!!

Roddy was even better than his already great numbers. You NEED a guy like Roddy in the locker room and this season shows what a lack of locker room leaders we have on this team.

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3 minutes ago, NCFalconfan said:

Roddy was even better than his already great numbers. You NEED a guy like Roddy in the locker room and this season shows what a lack of locker room leaders we have on this team.

Exactly!!!! But we were so READY to run the lockerroom leaders off. Well, now this is what we have. A lockerroom full of young people without a leader sitting on a 3-8 record. And the same ones on this board that wanted the lockerroom leaders gone are crying that there are no leaders in the lockerroom.

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This article was maybe the most telling and insightful Falcons related article I've read in a decade really....Honestly, I can see why Quinn flushed the entire Shanahan staff after '16 because it sounds like Shanahan was somewhat of a tyrant. Sounds like that '16 team staff had some major insubordination issues on the offensive side of the ball when it came to the coaching staff. Losing the Super Bowl in that fashion (extreme arrogance) was a "no coexisting from here on out" moment for sure..Flushing the entire staff may have been a heavy handed move in retrospect, but I do understand better now why Quinn did it. 

 

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52 minutes ago, Flying Falcon said:

See, this is what I was talking about. Kyle didnt listen to nobody, not even Dan. And Dan didnt have a spine to make his listen to him. Dan Quinn is spineless, just like Jim Mora Jr.

This is one of the reasons why the NFL needs to change the rules about teams interviewing coaches that are still in the playoffs. You have an ego maniac like K.S. who is already doing whatever he wants on his side of the ball- probably not listening to the head coach at this point, and he HAS a job already waiting for him in SF. So really K.S. has little to lose by doing something as silly as he did with 4 mins to go in the SB. Basically, by having a job already, he has no audition to perform anymore and as we saw he just did whatever his ego told him to do. I wonder if it gave the brass in SF any pause about who they hired when those last 4 mins unfolded....

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7 minutes ago, NCFalconfan said:

This is one of the reasons why the NFL needs to change the rules about teams interviewing coaches that are still in the playoffs. You have an ego maniac like K.S. who is already doing whatever he wants on his side of the ball- probably not listening to the head coach at this point, and he HAS a job already waiting for him in SF. So really K.S. has little to lose by doing something as silly as he did with 4 mins to go in the SB. Basically, by having a job already, he has no audition to perform anymore and as we saw he just did whatever his ego told him to do. I wonder if it gave the brass in SF any pause about who they hired when those last 4 mins unfolded....

Exactly!!!! And who gets hurt behind this? The Falcons organization  and us.

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9 hours ago, Dem Birds said:

He didn't call him out negatively so much but he made it known why he didn't audible to run plays. He talked about how the system didn't have as many audibles and whatnot but also made it known that Kyle wasn't getting the plays in fast enough to allow him to survey the defense and make those changes. 

Oh wow! Didn’t know this. I guess that’s why some people felt the game was “rigged”.

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1 hour ago, NCFalconfan said:

Outstanding article and very telling. 

Glad he brought up Mike Peterson. Loved that guy - great veteran leadership, around the ball all the time and just made a ton of plays while going almost completely unnoticed. 

D BLOCK

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16 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

We don’t have enough guys in those roles who’ve been in those fires and fought and made it through those fires. Yeah, everybody wants the young guys. But those are the guys who are going to get you beat because they won’t make those one, two or three plays. They needed somebody like Sean Weatherspoon. We had Mike Peterson for a few years, and that guy was the best thing that ever happened to our defense.

The Falcons don't have any dogs. A few of us have been saying this for years. It's not even just vet leadership. The LOB came up together because they were dogs. Sherman, Browner, Chancellor, and ET were all on rookie deals together. But when you don't see you lack that leadership and an alpha personality, or you overestimate someone's ability in that role, you get mediocrity. When the inverse is keeping a very mild mannered player like Vic Beasley, it only worsens the issue of not having lead dogs. 

Shelley#37 and Flying Falcon like this

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