White Wins A Trophy Worth Mounting

Even now, after having his name and number, and for that matter his numbers, shown on TVs across the land, Chris White remains low-key about his origins. "When people ask where I'm from I don't say Vancleave, I say south Mississippi. If they really want to know they can ask again." Well, expect them to ask, after White was named winner of the award given to the best player in the whole state.

"It's a special honor," said White as he held the Conerly Trophy in his right hand. Mississippi State's senior linebacker had been handed the award minutes before by Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame director Michael Rubenstein, selected from the three finalists by vote of state media members. White came out ahead of a pair of quarterbacks, Jackson State's Casey Therriault and Southern Mississippi's Austin Davis, in the final voting.

Not so surprising, perhaps, considering how White bagged passers over the course of his winning senior season with the Bulldogs. When White learned he'd been voted to represent Mississippi State he did express surprise; first because he'd figured teammate and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod would get the nod, and second because defensive players generally get less respect from media voters.

But not only was he nominated, White won from among the ten candidates representing all of the state's four-year football programs. And he became just the fourth defensive player of any sort to win the Trophy since it debuted in 1996.

"It's just like a special honor, not many defensive players win it. But I'm just glad I can hold the trophy up."

So was his head coach Dan Mullen and position coach Manny Diaz, who joined the MSU party at the state's sports shrine. This was the fourth Bulldog player ever to win the Conerly, but the second-straight. In fact Mississippi State is the first state program to score successive Trophys, after back Anthony Dixon won it in 2009. Previous Bulldogs so honored are James Johnson (1998) and Jerious Norwood (2005).

Mullen, who signed White within two weeks of taking the Mississippi State job just two Decembers ago, was almost poppa-proud of White's victory. "He's been a champion in everything he's done. He just dominated the game and does it without any flash. I'm very proud to have him represent our University, and to have him represent us for many more years of playing football."

White finished this regular season with 106 tackles, and did so after moving to middle linebacker for the senior year. New MSU coordinator Diaz certainly helped his veteran make the switch from outside to inside, but "Taking credit for coaching Chris White is like taking credit for the sun coming up," he smiled.

White doesn't mind giving his position coach and coordinator credit, though, for allowing him to blossom as a senior. "He's got an attacking style of defense. Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss quarterback and a Conerly candidate) told me he can't stand defenses that blitz all the time, it confuses offenses. That's a big reason why you make plays in it."

Mullen won't forget his introduction to Chris White. "It was my second, third day on the job, I got on a plane to Vancleave, Mississippi. I met Chris, met his family. And he showed me the picture of the buck he'd just killed. Then he told me he was excited about Mississippi State, his girlfriend was going there, and he turned the page and showed me the picture of the buck she'd just killed!"

White is also a product of the state's junior college system, and he thanked Coach Steve Campbell for two great seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast CC that let him develop as well as qualify for senior college. And, let him take advantage when Mullen extended a scholarship offer. White isn't proud that lax academics in high school sent him along the juco route, but in the long run everybody has come out the better for it.

"That's what I sometimes say. Coach Mullen came there, he's a great coach and is going to win a lot of football games. And it kind of worked out to my advantage." To Mississippi State's as well, with White playing a leading role in the 8-4 record, the recent Egg Bowl victory, and a return to Bulldog bowling with a bid forthcoming this weekend.

"I'm grateful for this year. We had a great season and we're looking forward to going to the bowl game," said White, holding the trophy. Where, exactly, will it go? "I guess at my house in Vancleave," he said. Oh, next to those buck heads Mullen saw two years ago?

"No sir, they weren't big enough to mount."

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