White runs to daylight

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

Today, Jamel White is the starting running back for the Argonauts, his football career retrieved from the scrap heap.

A year ago, White could barely walk from the bedroom to his couch without having to get his wife to dial 911 and his professional football career began and ended with the family scrapbook.

"It was scary. After not playng at all last year, I'm just happy to be playing again anywhere," the 29-year-old White said yesterday after officially being named the team's starting running back for Thursday's home opener against the B.C. Lions. "I couldn't walk. I didn't know if I'd ever play again. I was worried about my wife, my daughter, you hear so many stories about athletes never being able to come back."

White's walk on the dark side began at a Detroit Lions training camp workout last year.

NFL PORTFOLIO

"They're not supposed to tackle the running backs. I was running and they grabbed my leg and yanked it out of the socket. I couldn't walk for almost six months. As the business goes down there, that was it. I got released."

Five years of building a decent NFL portfolio lay in ruin.

"It wasn't a lack of talent that got me released," he said. "But, that's the NFL."

It can be a cruel, hard place where stark judgments can leave a man a millionaire one day; broken the next.

Still, as he lay there White realized his new reality wasn't entirely a new experience. While he was a gifted high school athlete he wasn't highly recruited by colleges. In fact, when he signed a contract it was with baseball's Seattle Mariners.

"I'd never played baseball but they drafted me because they liked my speed. They tried to teach me but I didn't like curveballs and I didn't like getting thrown at. I got tired of it."

He wound up at little-regarded South Dakota, broke 11 school records and never got a second look by the NFL. "I've always been the lowest guy on the totem pole. But, I found it motivates me," he said. "Guys get drafted. I didn't get drafted. I had to walk on to a team to play. I've always been one of the guys in the background."

So, he limped off to Arizona, he said, "where a trainer named Warren Anderson, who has helped Donovan McNabb and a lot of NFL guys, knew what I had to do to get me well. I stayed for a month then went home to Concord, Ohio, and kept working on the exercises he showed me."

Meantime, in Toronto the Argos were figuring out ways to resuscitate a moribund offence.

Next thing White knew his agent was calling him about joining the Argos.

"I'd heard of the Argonauts, but as far as the league goes I never knew you could do things like jump offside in the backfield -- and, hey, it's okay!" White said, laughing. "All these years I've been hearing: 'Jamel, don't move, don't move!' Now they're yelling, 'Move! Move! Jamel, move!' It's taking me a while to learn."

Evidently he's a quick study. Quick enough to bump veteran John Avery from the starting lineup.

"I'd like to have both on the roster at the same time," offensive co-ordinator Steve Buratto said, "they have different skill sets ... (White) is a good blocker ... a more consistent yardage gainer. John's gonna have a negative play, another not so good one -- then he's going to break one 40 yards. Jamel is going to make some good yardage out of nothing."

Ah, yes! Making something out of nothing.

For White, it's his specialty. He has only been doing it for a lifetime.


Videos

Photos