White ready to prove his worth in the NFL

Oklahoma quarterback Jason White talks about the NFL Draft, his future as a professional and what the current Sooner quarterbacks need to do this summer to win the starting job.

Jason White just about accomplished everything that you could accomplish at Oklahoma. He won the Heisman Trophy and every other individual award you could win as a quarterback in college football, he led the Sooners to a Big 12 Championship, and he led OU to two NCAA Championship games.

White is one of the amazing stories in college football, coming back from two ACL knee injuries to win the Heisman and to put together two of the best years a quarterback has ever had in college football. Along the way people predicted that White wouldn't make it. They said he wouldn't recover from his injuries and that he certainly wouldn't be the starting quarterback at Oklahoma.

White proved all his critics wrong, and now with the NFL draft set for Saturday he will have to prove them wrong again. White is not expected to go high in the draft and some say he won't be drafted at all. So once again, White will be out to prove to the world that he can be a winning quarterback, but this time in the NFL.

After a grueling three hour workout lifting weights on Thursday, White sat down with this reporter to talk about his football future and what it is like to be the quarterback at Oklahoma.

JH: Jason, it is interesting how your life is unfolding. You have accomplished a lot in football at OU, but it appears the NFL still isn't sure you can play. Don't you find that puzzling?

JW: "Yeah, it is like a never ending hill that you are trying to crawl up. Once you achieve something that is very special to you, there is always something else that you are striving for. I think that is the way it is for all competitors. Once they achieve something they really want they always find something else they want to achieve."

JH: You have always been motivated by people saying you can't do something. And now here are people telling you that you are not good enough to play in the NFL. Isn't this the kind of stuff that motivates you the most?

JW: "It has always been that way. I have always had to prove the naysayers wrong and it is going to be that way at the next level. I will just have to go out there and continue to work hard and do my best. And if my best isn't good enough, then I don't belong there. I will just continue to do what I have been doing for the last six years."

JH: What have you been doing to get ready for the tryouts?

JW: "I have just been working out and staying in shape. I have been throwing the ball to keep my arm in shape. Nothing real strenuous, but I have tried to keep my legs in shape and my wind good. I want to make sure that I am throwing the ball decent."

JH: Who are you throwing the ball to? Are Mark Clayton and Mark Bradley and those guys still around?

JW: "Well, whoever shows up. I have different people show up every day, but Will Peoples has been pretty consistent. I have been throwing to Mark Bradley. I threw to Mark Clayton this morning and Ataleo Ford is there just about every day. I have quite an array of receivers to throw to."

JH: What kind of condition do you think that you are in? Are you trying to get bigger for the NFL?

JW: "I think my weight is pretty good where I am at. I am at 220 to 222, and that is just about every day. I have really leaned up through this whole process over the last few months. I would like to stay about where I am at. My body fat is pretty good right now, but I don't think gaining weight is going to help me. I think more than anything it would hurt me."

JH: What are you hearing from the NFL? I know you never look at a website, read a sports page or listen to radio that is except for my show, so do you hear anything about the draft?

JW: "Man, I won't comment on whether I listen to your show or not. No, I am just kidding. I am always going to have the attitude that what happens, happens. Nobody knows expect for the people that are going to do the drafting. They probably don't even know right now. I probably know about as much as everybody else about where I will go. I have heard anywhere from the late third to not even being drafted. Whatever happens I am not going to be surprised as long as I get the opportunity, then I will try to take it and run with it."

JH: Are you amazed sometimes that people will talk about quarterbacks who nobody has ever heard of who have not played against any kind of real competition, but they fail to talk about you considering the competition that you have played against and all you have accomplished? You are the ultimate football player not a track star. Doesn't it bother you that more people in the NFL don't seem to consider the fact that you are a great football player?

JW: "That is what I have going for myself, and that is that I play football. I am not going to make your outstanding plays. I am going to get the ball to players who can do that. I am going to manage the team the way it is supposed to be managed. That is what I do. I had to take that role after my second knee surgery and I adapted to that role pretty well.

"You have your other guys that maybe didn't win as much or maybe they didn't play on a great college team, but they have great intangibles. You know they are 6-foot-5, 235 pounds and they have a cannon for an arm. Those are guys that can be worked with and molded into a great quarterback. For me, what I have going for me and that is that I just play football. I am not about showboating or worried about looking good, all I am going to do is my job and that is to play quarterback."

JH: At this point this close to a draft and teams will call you and let you know how they feel about you. Who is calling you right now and what are they saying?

JW: "I have had a few calls, especially this last week. Actually, there have been a bunch of them. A bunch of teams called saying they wanted to ask some questions. They want to know if I had been injured over the last month or so and they asked what I have been doing over the last month. It is really just different things like that. I think every team has called just about once to just ask those questions."

JH: What do teams tell you about your quarterbacking ability?

JW: "More than anything they question my durability, especially my knees. I had a real good showing in my agility drills in front of a whole bunch of scouts showing that my knees are good. I think that helped me out a bunch. I don't think they think that I can throw the ball very hard. They feel my arm strength is poor. I just have to throw it early. I might not have a strong arm, but if I can get it there by throwing the ball early then that is all I have to do."

JH: It look like to me that your arm was plenty good enough at OU. Aren't you amazed that your arm is questioned by the NFL after all the yardage and touchdowns that you threw at OU?

JW: "I never really considered my arm completely weak, but I guess they say I have a moderate or average arm. People with average arms just have to learn to think quicker and get rid of the ball faster."

JH: What are you going to be doing this weekend? Are you going to be sitting in front of a TV?

JW: "I am sure that I will find something to do to keep myself busy. They will call before they draft me anyway. It might not be before the end of the draft and I might have to go free agent or whatever. I will keep myself busy over the weekend. I definitely won't have to get my hopes up on Saturday, but I will keep myself busy and enjoy my weekend with my family."

JH: Coach Bob Stoops and Chuck Long always talk about how they want the quarterback competition at OU to continue in the summer. The same thing happened to you and Nate Hybl, so what is it about the summer that seems to make or break quarterbacks?

JW: "In my opinion, the summer for a quarterback who is in a battle for the starting job is going to make the biggest leap in ability. Coaches are going to notice that by pass skel. How many guys can you get to show up at pass skel on a consistent basis? How much film you are watching, which to them is a sign that you really want the job. Leading your teammates at workouts and being a leader in the groups that you are in, making sure that everybody is making their time, and that your group is not falling behind. Those are things that the coaches will look for all summer and they will get feedback from Coach (Jerry) Schmidt about who is being a leader, and who is going as hard as they can the entire workout time? Those are things that can really make strides for somebody in the summer. That was the big thing for me, especially in this last year when Brent (Rawls) and Paul (Thompson) were going through the summer, because I made a lot of strides."

JH: So are the responsibilities of getting the practices organized and together is on the quarterback?

JW: "It is all on the shoulders of the quarterback. If you don't have pass skel then it is the quarterback's fault. It is just a matter of how good you want to be. If you are the quarterback, you are going to get guys to come to pass skel. You are going to call them in the morning and make sure they are there at 7 a.m. That is just things that you have to do. I know that these guys are grown men, but sometimes they need a little help. That is what a quarterback has to do. He has to be able to motivate his guys to come to practice. Even if your defense doesn't show up, that is the whole other side of the ball. If the defense doesn't show up, you can still run the offense against air and get a good days work in."

JH: Who calls the defensive guys?

JW: "Well, whoever is going to be the leader on defense. We had a lot of guys step up this year. Lance (Mitchell) did a great job with it and Teddy always did a great job with pass skel. You notice those kind of guys are always finishing first in all the drills and with all the workout times. They are the leaders of the team."

JH: Do you script all the plays?

JW: "You call your own plays. You draw up a little short-game, you do some deep routes and you call your own plays or whatever you feel you need to work on. You always want to touch on the things that you ran the most in the spring. The coaches are not allowed to help out or anything, so you might go up and watch film on four or five short-game routes and you might run them the next day in pass skel. You would just touch up on them."

JH: All three guys this year going to the summer have always relied on you to be that leader, to be that jerk who called all those guys at six in the morning to wake them up. Who do you feel is going to step up and be the guy this summer out of Paul Thompson, Rhett Bomar and Tommy Grady?

JW: "I think it is going to be interesting to see who is going to be that guy that the team is going to call the mean guy. Who is going to be that guy that is constantly going to be on people, not in a negative way, but in a positive way to get them to show up? Who is going to take that role? Even 'Hype' (Josh Heupel) when he was here was the same way. Everybody liked him, but they didn't like him because he was always pushing people. He always wanted to go longer and he always wanted to throw extra. That is what it takes to be a leader and why he was great quarterback. It is going to be interesting to see which one of the guys can step up and which one of the quarterbacks the guys can follow. Whoever they respond to, I think that guy will be your quarterback."

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