He was named the most valuable player in Mississippi’s Region 7 as a senior in high school. He led his high school club to the state playoffs each of his final three seasons. But when it came time to pick where to play college football no one was calling Chris White with an offer.
Buffalo’s sixth-round pick was a productive player. He made over 260 tackles in his high school career along with 13.5 sacks, eight fumble recoveries and a couple of pass interceptions. Playing at smaller Vancleave high school however, left him with few choices.
“Coming out of high school I didn’t have any scholarships,” said White. “I went to a small school. Our school really isn’t highly recruited. I felt like I had a pretty good senior season but I didn’t get highly recruited.”
White ultimately chose the junior college route hoping that two years of solid production would lead to more opportunities at the Division I level.
Things could not have panned out much better for White in his two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He led the Bulldogs to back-to-back state junior college championships as well as the national title his freshman season at middle linebacker. In his two seasons he made 204 tackles with four interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Three of those turnovers he returned for touchdowns.
Individually he was also named first team All-American and first team All-Region XXIII by the NJCAA following his sophomore season. He was also selected the Mississippi MVP in the inaugural Mississippi Bowl, which matches up two of the best junior college teams in the country.
Shockingly the offers from Division I schools were few and far between.
“Coming out of junior college there weren’t really many scholarships,” said White. “I’ve always been underrated.”
White however, wasn’t worried. He felt his play would speak for him and eventually some opportunities would present themselves.
“I kind of had in the back of my head the whole time when I was at junior college that I could (play major college football),” he said. “I really didn’t talk about it a lot but I knew I wanted to go to – not necessarily at an SEC school – but I knew it was Division I somewhere. I just had to wait on the scholarship to come.”
He eventually chose Mississippi State and earned a starting role his junior season at outside linebacker. Come his senior season his production took a big jump. He shifted inside at linebacker and finished fourth in the SEC with 105 tackles and 15.5 for loss. He also ranked eighth in the conference with six sacks.
“It was his second year being on campus after transferring from a junior college so I think he probably felt little more comfortable playing for them and being in the system that second year,” said Bills scout Shawn Heinlen. “It made it easier for him to diagnose and play faster than he did his first year on campus.”
After his senior season there were more honors for the previously unheralded White. He was named the Conerly Trophy winner, which recognizes the best collegiate football player in the state of Mississippi. An invite to the Senior Bowl followed, which is where he has his first meeting with the Bills coaching staff.
“They definitely worked us hard down there,” he said. “I got to meet the linebackers coach. Chan Gailey seems like a real cool head coach. Like I said, they definitely have a work hard first (mentality) and want to win.”
As far as White is concerned that suits him just fine, as he’s more than fine being described as a hard-nosed football player.
“I’ll agree with that completely,” he said. “All out effort every play and try to get to the ball and make plays every time I get a chance to.”
“He’s not the biggest guy, he’s not the fastest guy, but he makes plays,” said Gailey. “He’s around the ball all the time. He’s a smart player and he’s around the football and he understands the game and seems to have a really good head on his shoulders.”
The Bills had some additional information on White that went deeper than the week they spent with him at the Senior Bowl. Bills GM Buddy Nix and coach Gailey both knew his junior college defensive coordinator Steve Davis, whose comments only confirmed what they had thought about White all along.
“We had some great reports on him,” said Nix. “We heard what this guy was made of and knew that he did have some of those natural instincts. You could see it on film, but to hear another coach say it helps you.”
That’s why being a sixth-round pick doesn’t faze White. He’s had to prove himself wherever he’s lined up. Just having the opportunity to do that again is good enough for him.
“This NFL process, not many people gave me a chance either,” he said. “I’m just excited to come to Buffalo, work hard, get better every day and just try to make the roster.”