Thunder and Lightning
This article appears in the September issue of SchoolSports magazine.
Mullen senior center Jesse White received his introduction to the limelight a long time ago, which is probably why being one of the nation's elite offensive linemen is pretty ho-hum to him.
You see, White's dad, Leon, is better known as pro wrestler Vader, a former star in both the WWF and WCW and one of the world's most popular wrestlers in the 1990s.
And when Leon called his son into the ring in Japan about 10 years ago after becoming the first American to win the New Japan Pro Wrestling triple crown, well, now that was the limelight. Smashing defensive linemen all over Colorado football fields isn't too big a deal once you've helped Vader celebrate an international wrestling title.
That's not to say the 6-foot-3, 294-pound Jesse White doesn't take football seriously. He just knows how to handle the pressure of being rated the nation's No. 15 offensive lineman and No. 85 overall recruit in the Class of 2005 by SchoolSports.com (the only Colorado player in the national Top 100).
"Yeah, it makes it tougher to do your job when you're [a nationally ranked player]," says White, 17, whose dad was also a former All-American center at the University of Colorado and a third-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1978. "I've learned to just concentrate on what I have to do and taking care of the little things. I also make sure to help some of the younger guys with their technique. That helps take my mind off things."
White, who has verbally committed to UCLA, is plenty worthy of his ranking. He has a high football IQ and can reach any gap he's assigned thanks to his extraordinary lateral movement and 4.79 time in the 40-yard dash. And with a Herculean 460-pound bench press max and 650-pound squat max, he is surely one of the strongest high school linemen in the country as well as one of the best.
"Jesse is as strong a kid as you'll find at this level, and I don't know if you'd find too many kids stronger," says Mullen second-year head coach Dave Logan, 49, a former teammate of White's father at CU who spent 10 years as an NFL wide receiver with the Cleveland Browns and now handles Denver Broncos play-by-play duties for KOA Radio. "He's a very smart, athletic kid, and even at his size he's mobile enough for us to pull him a lot. From the center spot."
Yes, Jesse White can take care of the little things, all right. And one of those things is the state's top running back, Mullen senior Maurice Greer Jr., who is rated the No. 20 running back in the nation by SchoolSports.com.
Blessed with 4.46 speed in the 40 and a deceptively punishing style, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Greer flashes into the holes carved by White and bangs his way into the defensive backfield. Last year, White and company cleared enough space for Greer to earn first team All-State honors after finishing the season with 2,273 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns.
Unlike White, Greer has never been inside a Japanese wrestling ring. But he's still plenty capable of keeping stuff in perspective.
"I don't think there's anything weird about all the attention that comes with our senior year," says Greer, 17, who lived in Arkansas until age 6. "I gotta just come out and work hard just like last season and pray I stay healthy. I just stay focused, and I don't listen to what everyone else has to say. I just know a lot of teams will be hunting for me this year, and I'll have to be ready."
Greer sort of has White to thank for the bull's-eye on his back since last season was the first in which they shared a uniform. White spent his sophomore season at Chatfield — where Logan was the head coach from 2000-2002 — and attended Fairview as a freshman.
But once the two players were united when White chose to follow Logan to Mullen in '03, the pairing of talent and maturity yielded explosive results. Led by White and Greer, the Mustangs went 12-1 and made it to the Class 5A state semifinals last fall. And entering this season, Mullen is ranked the top team in Colorado by SchoolSports.
Of course, Greer's success isn't due entirely to White. There's a reason why colleges like CU, Kansas State, Arkansas, Nebraska and Texas comprise his recruiting top five. In addition to his physical gifts, Greer has the patience to visualize his runs long before game day, putting aside specific blocks of time to "imagine the O-line opening up holes for me and hitting them hard."
"He's hard running and very tough," says Logan, who enters this season with a 103-32 record in 11 seasons as a high school head coach and has won state titles during stints at Arvada West and Chatfield. "He has between-the-tackles toughness but has the speed to get to the edge. Everybody we play has a plan to stop him. Their first priority is to get control of him. To put up those numbers when that's the case is impressive."
For his part, Greer draws a tremendous sense of security knowing White is up front clearing a path for him ("I know he's got my back," says Greer). White, meanwhile, gets a kick out of watching the back of Greer's jersey get smaller and smaller in his forward field of vision, even though few fans notice it was his block that opened the hole.
"People who know football understand how much responsibility the center has," says White, who anchored an offensive line that bulldozed Mullen rushers to nearly 3,000 total yards last year. "The Average Joe just thinks we're a big guy taking up space. I'm the quarterback of the offensive line, and I have to know every other lineman's assignment. But I don't care if anyone cares about that as long as we're doing our job."
For a second and final season, White and Greer are poised to do their jobs together. Comfortably in the limelight.