By Chris Mahr
With the Heisman Trophy about to be handed out on Saturday night in New York City’s Times Square, a former college star who nearly clutched the bronze statue just four years ago now dreams of one day holding a golden, bald-headed man named “Oscar.”
West Virginia QB Pat White is best remembered for an entertaining style of play that produced a slew of records and lasting memories that included two Top 10 Heisman Trophy finishes in 2007 (6th) and ‘08 (7th). Now White is attempting to entertain in a different and literal way.
“I’m working in the world of the arts, becoming a thespian, and when that happens, life is going to be so wonderful,” White told reporters gathered at the West Virginia Legends camp this past June.
Yes, the triggerman for West Virginia’s high-scoring offense just several years ago is trying to become an actor after failed pro football and baseball careers. It came as a shock to those aforementioned reporters, who had struggled to coax non-monosyllabic answers out of White early in the QB’s career.
“I like to entertain, believe it or not,” he explained at the time, perhaps anticipating reporters’ confusion. “It didn’t show very much, probably still not doing it now interviewing, but it’s a hidden passion of mine and I’m excited to have an opportunity, so we’ll see where it takes me.”
White, now 26, has had the full support of his parents, Bo Sr. and Vonametris, and has received valuable advice from both his aunt Janice White Nelson — an actress whose credits have included “In the Heat of the Night” and several made-for-TV movies — and Grant Wiley, a former All-American LB with the Mountaineers who himself is in the early stages of an acting career.
“Nothing happens overnight, we both understood that when Pat decided on this,” Bo Sr. said via phone recently from White’s hometown of Daphne, AL. “I compliment him on all the good things and calls he’s getting.” Pat White did not respond to interview requests.
The younger White no doubt appreciates his parents’ support but doesn’t necessarily need it to carry on. He’s worked with the odds stacked against him before and prevailed while doing so.
West Virginia was the only school to recruit White — a modest three-star Rivals prospect — as a QB from the get-go. Four years later, the highlights of White’s prolific tenure in Morgantown were numerous and well-known. A 34–8 record as a starter. Upset victories in the 2006 Sugar Bowl against Georgia and 2008 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma (the latter of which saw him earn MVP honors). The FBS record for career rushing yards by a QB (4,480). A combined 103 TDs passing and rushing.
Though undersized for the NFL at six-foot and 190 pounds, White was thought of highly enough by the Miami Dolphins that they selected him in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft and signed him to a four-year contract. But White suffered a serious head injury in the final game of his rookie year and was cut by the Dolphins before the 2010 season.
After brief dalliances with baseball in 2010 — he participated in the fall instructional league with the Kansas City Royals — and the UFL’s Virginia Destroyers in 2011, White’s professional athletic career was shockingly finished almost as soon as it started.
White no doubt hopes for a much longer and successful acting career.
Susan Ferris, the CEO of the Bohemia Group talent management company and White’s agent, has seen and represented her fair share of athletes-turned-aspiring actors. Ferris says that it’s not easy to get ex-athletes to realize that being revered in their sport doesn’t guarantee success in Hollywood. A problem, she says, she’s never had with Pat White.
“He was so polite and sincere the first time we met,” said Ferris. “It kind of threw me off my game, actually. You will never meet a more humble guy.”
With Ferris’ help, White has pounded the Hollywood pavement, attending acting classes and auditions while splitting his time between L.A., his hometown of Daphne and Miami, where he still has a home. Interestingly, the strategy behind White making a name for himself in Hollywood is wholly separate from his athletic reputation.
“We’re not advertising him as a former player but rather a good-looking guy who’s just starting out and who we’re introducing to Hollywood folks,” Ferris explained. “He’s making fans, and he’s doing it all the time. That’s the most important thing you can do in this business.”
Among those fans are casting directors, according to Ferris. White has already auditioned for a soap opera and is preparing himself for the all-important “pilot season” between mid-January to the beginning of May, when aspiring actors like White try to land roles on shows that hopefully get picked up for the fall.
Because while White’s playing days are behind him, he still plans on entertaining fans for years to come.
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