Drew White was part of a crowd today.
He watched high school teammates set to sign with Ohio State, Mississippi State, Florida, Tennessee, Iowa, Michigan State, UCLA, Illinois and Vanderbilt. White, a three-star linebacker from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., added Notre Dame to that list with his signature. That made official a verbal commitment that goes back to last spring.
“I have no regret at all for committing when I did,” White said. “I was definitely waiting almost on Notre Dame. That had always been my dream school, always been the offer I was waiting for. When I did get it, I just committed because no offer would come that would beat it. Why wait?
“I’m not one of those guys to soak up attention or get all the hype. I just wanted to get my spot and move forward, get better.”
That attitude got White in position to be recruited by Notre Dame in the first place.
White spent the first two years of his high school career at Boca Raton High School. Recruiting interest was limited before he transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas ahead of his junior season. White knew the move could change the trajectory of his career.
Aquinas is not only a state power but a national one too, routinely sending dozens of prospects to college then the NFL. Aquinas had nine players on NFL rosters last season in the opening week, leading the nation.
Practicing against a stable of prospects benefited White in the long run.
“I only had one offer pretty much before my junior season,” White said. “I’m playing with all these guys that are four stars and five stars and committed everywhere. I had a chip on my shoulder and knew I had something to prove. I didn’t want to let down anyone. I just wanted to play my game. That’s what I did my junior year and obviously it paid off.”
White flourished as a junior. Scholarship offers rolled in from Arkansas, LSU, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio State, West Virginia and Wisconsin, among others. Notre Dame came calling in March.
White wasted little time giving the Irish his pledge that same month. He’s unsure if that opportunity would have ever presented itself if not for that move to Aquinas.
“It’s just an awesome experience to be able to go to a program like St. Thomas,” White said. “It was a great decision, obviously had great results. I might be biased but I think it’s the best high school program in the nation. The way it’s run by coach (George) Smith and coach (Roger) Harriott, it’s definitely an elite school. Everything is organized. Obviously, college coaches love it.
“I think I’ve seen literally every school come by because they know the players are being coached the right way, they’re training the right way and they know how to balance their time. We really run like a college program. They know we’re gonna be ready once we get to college.”
White capped his Aquinas experience by helping the Raiders to another Florida Class 7A state title. They won by handing Tampa Plant its only loss of the season — a 45-6 rout. White’s defense allowed just 24 points in five playoff games.
Now White’s attention has turned toward college, where he hopes the same things that made him successful playing for one of the top high school programs will translate upward.
“I think my instincts and my preparation,” White said. “Smartness, I guess you would call it. That’ll help me. I think that’ll correlate to the college game. That’s something St. Thomas helped me with, studying film and honing my technique, learning what to read and stuff. I think that’s a major part of my game. I’m ready to bring that to Notre Dame and be that much ahead. Also just my speed. South Florida helps you be adjusted to the speed. We’re the fastest in the nation.”