In 2006, when the Colts were on their way to Super Bowl victory, young hopeful Blair White was taking the field at Michigan State as a walk-on — he made the team. Three years later he was a stalwart in the team’s offense, earned a scholarship, and was good enough to get picked up by the Indianapolis Colts following the 2010 NFL Draft.
Even though White made a real impression in preseason as a player who would do whatever it takes to make a grab, had sure-hands, and seemed like the kind of reliable possession receiver quarterback Peyton Manning loves, he was cut. The team grabbed him for the practice squad and allowed him to continue developing until disaster struck and injuries required the Colts to activate him.
What White did, even in his first game, is something few players in his positions would be able to do. He caught three Manning passes for 27 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL game. Walk-on — to undrafted — to cut — to practice squad — to first game touchdown and a victory against the Denver Broncos.
It’s no secret to anyone who closely follows the NFL, the biggest rivalry going is the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. Tom Brady v. Peyton Manning. No other regular season game has a chance to generate the television rating this game does every year.
In 2010, the Colts took a battered team into Foxborough. For much of the game it was clear that injuries were simply too much to overcome. Don’t tell that to one guy. White caught five passes for 42 yards and 2 touchdowns. If not for White’s performance and end zone presence, there is no way Manning would have had a chance for a late game drive to actually win the game.
Against the New York Jets in the playoffs? White was targeted eight times — tied for the most on the team (J. Tamme), caught six passes — the most on the team, for 54 yards against the Jets vaunted defense. He was not the marquee player in that game, as Pierre Garcon caught five passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, but he was an integral part of the offense and stepped up on a huge stage.
There have been times the Colts have had wide receivers like Aaron Moorehead and Brandon James, who have no earthly business being regular contributors in the offense and who are cringe-worthy if they have to take the field. But some people would wrongly put White in the same grouping. “A decent backup but nothing more. He’s been hurt throughout preseason and is on the PUP, and yeah we’ve held on to a other injured players for a long time but he’s not worth it.”
I strongly disagree. Blair White has worked for everything he’s had in the football world and taken a rough road to get where he is today. He is a blue collar player who will do whatever it takes and has performed when he has been asked to do so. He was not perfect, of course. There were times when timing or minor route mishaps helped lead to turnovers. But to dismiss him, not even include him in realistic discussions for who would be the best receivers for the 2011 Colts roster is a mistake.
It’s funny how soon people forget. Professional football really is a “what have you done for me lately” league. White hasn’t taken the field this preseason and all of the sudden everyone seems to forget.
While I don’t know many others who agree with me, I think White has the chance to be a very special receiver. Possession receivers with grit and reliability are not cast away assets in my mind. It would be a real shame to see him go.