Walk-on's turnaround breathtaking

ATHENS – Georgia's coaches and players are rightfully proud of the turnaround they achieved with last week's win over Auburn.

Nothing, though, can match the U-turn made by walk-on lineman Micky White. While the Bulldogs (7-4, 4-4 SEC) have been trying to save their season, White may have saved his life.

The graduate of Loganville High School came to Georgia as a preferred walk-on and a longshot. At 6-foot-1, he weighed 360 pounds when he arrived in August.

"Mick was huge," defensive lineman Ray Gant said. "I thought Mick was going to die at first."

White did, too, at times. What he didn't think was that he would quit. Being a Bulldog had been a dream for too long.

White attended his first Georgia football camp when he was 8 years old, the same year he began telling friends he would one day play for the Bulldogs, and he came to 11 straight camps after that.

"His mother would always call me and say, ‘Coach Van, now Micky cannot take a 3X, and that's always the biggest shirt you have, so he needs a 4X, and I'd order a special shirt for Micky,'" Georgia strength coach Dave Van Halanger said.

White hasn't played this year and won't. He may never get a game snap, but he doesn't wear a 4X anymore. White is down to 313 pounds as of this week, an astonishing number considering he's adding heavier muscle all the while he's losing fat. His waist size has gone from a 54 to a 44.

"I think now that he feels so much better, he's going to keep that healthy lifestyle that he's living right now," Van Halanger said.

With every pound White drops, he further decreases his risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, gallbladder disease, some types of cancer and sleep apnea among other ailments.

"That in itself is just a blessing for him for his health and his self esteem," Coach Mark Richt said. "I feel really good for him."

White makes no excuses for his weight problem. He ate too much and ran too little.

"I can put away some food," he said.

At the Peddler Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tenn., White and a couple friends once knocked back two-pound steaks and several trips to the all-you-can-eat salad bar on an off day.

"We weren't really hungry, but it was something for us to eat and say that we'd done," he said.

For White and his buddies, a road trip meant driving two hours back and forth to the Dillard House restaurant. The two-pound steaks and the all-you-can-eat buffets are off the menu, but that's the only real dietary change White has had to make.

"That's about it, that and busting my butt," he said.

White has dropped weight so rapidly that his mother was concerned for his health, he said.

"She's like, ‘Are you sure it's good for you?'" he said. "I'm like, ‘I'm getting all the nutrition I need. It's OK. I may be dropping a lot of weight, but I needed to do it.' My dad looked at me and was like, ‘Well, it looks like you're finally getting in shape.'"

When White arrived, offensive line coach Neil Callaway told him he had to lose 40 pounds. The number seemed daunting.

"Then the first two weeks I probably dropped 10-15 pounds quick, and I was like, ‘OK, this isn't going to be too bad,'" he said.

Now he's eager to get down to 300.

"It makes you feel a lot better (about yourself), but mainly it's just having all the weight off you," he said. "When I first came here at practice it would just kill me. I would have to stop and sit down for a little bit. Now, I'm with everybody else. After practice, I can getundressed, take a shower and go back to my daily routine. It's really nice to be able to stay with everybody now."

A lifelong Bulldog fan, White learned just before he graduated from Loganville High School that he would be asked to walk-on at Georgia. Scholarship talks with schools such as Valdosta State and West Georgia, and some conversion with Columbia of the Ivy League, immediately vanished from his mind.

There was no question where he wanted to play.

"He's been a Georgia fan forever," Gant said. "He knows every statistic, everything. It's like having a little Georgia almanac around here."

Thus far, there have been two prominent highlights for White – dressing out for a home game and making the Dawg Walk and taking call after call of apology from all the people who didn't think he could do what he's now officially done.

"A lot of people at my high school doubted me," he said. "I've been saying since I was 8 years old, that I was going to come here so I've had a lot of people doubt me. I've had friends call me up or meet me back at my house and tell me that they were sorry for ever doubting me."

White has been embraced by his teammates for enthusiasm and accomplishment.

"He goes hard, he gives it his all, he gets cussed out by Coach (Jon Fabris) and he's still got a big smile on this face," Gant said. "He's just glad to be a part of the team."

With Georgia expecting to have a thin offensive line next year, White could even contribute on the field at some point, Van Halanger said.

"Mick's a road-grader now," Van Halanger said. "You put a guy in front of him and say, ‘Go get him Mick,' he'll road grade you. Now, if a guy moves, that's a little different."

Playing is next on White's checklist, he said.

"All the weight training coaches have been telling me if I just keep doing what I'm doing and busting my butt, it'll happen," he said. "I'm happy to be here, but I want to contribute. And I know it's going to happen with time."

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