Former Memphis quarterback Brady White barely has any time to take a breath. Even with his collegiate career officially, finally, closed, the 31st Campbell Trophy recipient still has a busy schedule.
White, who recently got engaged, is still going through a doctoral program at the university while prepping for the 2021 NFL Draft, which will call on his ability to adapt considering the restraints and reimagined pre-draft process due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid all of this, White spent time with The Draft Network discussing his lengthy football career, a transfer that set in motion the most successful stretch of seasons within the Tigers’ program, the loaded quarterback class he’s now part of, and how his strong academic drive will aid his life-long learning in sport.
The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
TDN: Walk us through the transfer process from Arizona State to Memphis. You were battling injuries, struggling to carve out a role in the Pac-12, completed your undergrad degree in December 2017, and joined the Tigers’ program.
BW: The whole process was very complex, and there's a lot of things that happened. I went to Arizona State, and to this day, I'm still an alumni—I love that place and all the people that I've connected with in my time being there. I competed for the job in my second year there as a redshirt freshman, then obviously, Manny Wilkins started, and he ended up getting hurt kind of early in the season, I took over, and in my first true start, ended up getting hurt. It happened to be a pretty severe injury, unfortunately, so I missed the rest of the season and I wasn't gonna be fully recovered by the time the next season rolled around. It wasn't like I was still injured, I was just in the rehab process. Once that season concluded, head coach Todd Graham had gotten fired, and I had already put myself in a position to graduate in the fall with all the classes that I took and knocking out all the credit hours. And honestly, initially, when the season was over, it wasn't like I went right to it. I was actually content with where I was at and talked to coach Graham; he encouraged me to be still and said God called me to this place for a reason.
After some time—with all the connections and people in the coaching world and in the world of football—my family and I started catching on with the fact that since I've graduated, if I wanted to look into transferring, I could be a pretty hot commodity. I had three years to play and I've already graduated so I don't have to sit out, and that's how the ball got rolling. Once it got started, that's when I really dove headfirst into that whole transition. I knew if I'm going to do this, I wanted to get somewhere in the spring, so I had to do my own research and get somewhere quickly. I knew I wasn't going to have a full-on recruiting (process), like high school. I was going to need to go somewhere where I've got a previous relationship and connection built. And there's only a handful of schools that I was really looking at. Things worked out. I reconnected with coach Mike Novell, who originally recruited me out of high school, and the rest has been history.
TDN: You became a three-year starter and quarterback for the most prolific offenses in Memphis history. You recently said Memphis was trending up before you got there, but you obviously helped take the program to new heights. What worked so well for you there?
BW: I want to start it off by just paying respect and giving a lot of credit to the coaches and players that set that foundation at Memphis, and then also coach Norvell and that staff that brought me in. Once I was there, I was fortunate to be welcomed with open arms and be with a group of guys and a part of a culture that just has an edge to it. I was extremely impressed with the passion for the game and the willingness and desire to work hard and embrace the offseason workouts and all the stuff that is required in order to set yourself up for a successful season. I stepped in there, and I was just authentic to who I am. I was genuine and let myself be me. The first year was a little unique, just because I didn't know a single soul on that team and had to come in and compete for the starting quarterback position. You're supposed to be the leader, and it was definitely an intriguing experience that I'll have, and I'll be able to lean on and have a lot of experience from. I was able to connect with those guys and be who I am and be the player that I am. We were able to do some amazing things, break records, make history at that program, win a lot of football games, and win championships. I'm extremely proud of that and grateful for being a part of that team—and those teams in the past.
TDN: How are you hoping that leadership and relatability translates to the NFL, especially knowing how these quarterback classes have been so loaded and that you can improve your skill and strength at the next level? How will your mentality carry into the NFL with the obstacles you’ll face?
BW: The physical parts, other than just genetics, can all be worked on and improved. I've been dealing with that my whole life. I came out of high school with an extremely impressive class that might be one of the best quarterback classes ever, in 2015, with a lot of guys that are starting in the National Football League right now. And I competed, not every day but, consistently (against) those guys at all these camps and was top amongst that group; throughout my career, it's been different, but I've embraced that. That's my journey, and I'm extremely adaptable. I've had—I think up until this last season—a different offensive coordinator, head coach, or one of the two, every single year. I had four different offenses and was able to adapt and thrive in every single one. What's between my ears and who I am as a person is a big strength of mine and it's just a matter of connecting with one [NFL] team because all it takes is one and getting someone that believes in me and gives me that opportunity.
TDN: Is there a particular scheme that you really feel like you can be your best self in?
BW: I had a variety of different offenses in my time, and I really loved the complex ones; the ones that were actually not super easy, that were difficult, that had a lot of depth and detail to them, and that put a lot of responsibility on the quarterback. As far as the scheme and the offensive philosophy, I feel like I've played in somewhat of a pro-style system. Other than the fact of going under center, and all those different things, the X's and O's—and the mentality and mindset behind it all—is very comparable to some of these next-level offenses. I'm really just looking forward to, you know, getting to wherever I'm fortunate to be and seeing what they have in place, learning that, and learning from all the different coaches and players that are there; then being able to master it and execute it on the field. I'll be able to kind of handle whatever is thrown at me and adjust to whatever system I get put in.
[Author’s note: It’s no surprise the studious White enjoys being challenged as much on the field as he does in the classroom. After seven years playing in two different programs, White leans into his proven study habits, especially when it comes to learning the game.]
It gives you all the answers to the test, you know, an example would be having a long study guide. But if you know every single answer you're going to be asked, you show up to the test, and there's not a shadow of a doubt—you absolutely ace it. With football, it's a little bit different, but I just know I walked into every game having multiple answers to every single look that I was prepared to see. Now it's just on you to have those instincts, the ability to recognize defense, and have that football IQ to get your offense in the best situation to succeed. And that's where I thrive.
TDN: You’re not a doctor—yet, but take us through your degrees.
BW: I started undergrad at ASU, obviously, and was able to complete my degree in business and communication. I did that in three years and then transferred, got my master's in a year in sports commerce; it's essentially sports business. When I graduated and earned my master's degree there was like a question of, what's next? I just wanted to challenge myself and push the envelope. The same way I want to compete at the highest level and football and be the best quarterback, ever, the best quarterback I can be, I want to push myself in the classroom and challenge myself at the highest level of academia. I took on the whole doctorate program, and it's been difficult. I'm not gonna lie to you. It's been a long, long road, but I fully plan on finishing it and earning that. Dr. White title.
TDN: Did you always kind of want to reach these academic heights? Or did it just go hand in hand with your, you know, continued football career?
BW: I think a little bit of both. I definitely didn't plan on getting to the doctorate level and being in college as long as (I was), but life happens, and God has a mysterious way of working his plan out. So with my injury and whatnot, the time was there for me. I've always wanted to pursue excellence in the classroom and to push myself and challenge myself (to) take it as far as I can possibly go. As a high schooler, I thought, I'm gonna go to Arizona State, I'm gonna maybe just learn for a year, and then be the starter and play for however long. I thought I might get to the master’s level and finish that, but like I said, the journey that I've had, I was able to knock everything out pretty quickly. I got to the point where that doctorate program, that doctorate level, was right in front of me, and I attacked it head-on and I'm glad I did; I have no regrets on that. I'm really enjoying it.
TDN: How have you mentally been able to balance all of this? Because at the end of the day, you can have that support, but only you can fit all of this into a 24-hour schedule?
BW: As this collegiate student-athlete, you have those resources, but being in the position I am and playing the quarterback position at a high level, you know, your schedule in life looks a lot different than other athletes and other people just going to college. That's where I will take some credit; I definitely want to point to other people and highlight them, but it's time management, it's being able to have a healthy balance in your life, to compartmentalize things, to adjust and adapt on the fly. It wasn't like every week I have certain times set aside and I know what every week is going to look like. It varied depending on workload and what I had going on with school, football, and personal things in life. I think I did a pretty, pretty damn good job with the balancing act that I had on my hands for the last couple years.
TDN: Where do you draw inspiration from to just make it through these long days?
BW: I really draw inspiration (from) my faith; and it's really a personal drive. It's supported hand-in-hand with my family and my loved ones: my fiance, my parents, siblings, and friends. That’s where I get that drive; going through the long days, it's really kind of all on you. I have a really good motor inside me, and then that's kind of where I just channeled that, that energy and that focus and determination—for days like that in times like that.
TDN: What was the most challenging part of the season? How did you get through this difficult past year?
BW: The most challenging part of this last year, this last season, was (players) opting out and any injuries that we kind of acquired along the way. Regardless of it, we rose above it and didn't necessarily achieve everything we wanted to achieve, but we had a pretty dang successful season and capped it off with a nice bowl victory. In those times it is just taking a step back, understanding it is what it is, no one really gives a crap. You still got to go make it happen. You got to go do your job. It's really focusing on who is with you, who is going to battle with you, galvanizing the troops and stepping up; even if you’re a leader, guess what, now you got to take on more responsibility and step forward even more. You got to go execute on game day with whoever's out there, doesn't matter if it's the waterboy or you're No. 1 guy. We were able to have a good group of people that loved each other that came together and fought for one another, and amongst all the craziness, and just a weird feeling year, to do what we did, I was very, very proud.
TDN: Were you considering opting out?
BW: No, I'll cut you off right there. I'm not wired that way. I can't, I can't quit. I can't tap out. I'm going to see things ‘til the end. I'm going to finish what I started, and never in a million years did it cross my mind or even become a thought of opting out this season. Now, I'm not gonna sit here and say that I was happy go lucky every single day or it was easy. There's definitely days where you sit back and are like, “crap, this is tough.” But I've always told myself—and I think this is good for a lot of people—with great adversity comes great opportunity. The more adversity you face, the more opportunity you have. You don't have to be Mr. Positivity, but if you just look at things with a different perspective in life, you're able to keep trucking, you're able to keep yourself motivated. I think it's impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time; so it's just a constant reminder every day about those different things and then going and living it out.
TDN: This past summer, in the height of Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd's death, you penned a note and you shared it on social media. As a white quarterback and a team leader in a sport that has been largely successful off Black labor, how important was it for you to vocalize that?
BW: I just think it's extremely important to be united. My calling in life and our calling as human beings is to love one another. Amongst all that adversity, I thought it was important to just voice what I did and to show my teammates—and it's not as a facade or just because I play a sport that's got a lot of participants that are predominantly Black—it's none of that. It's just what I believe in my heart of hearts. I'm going to stand up and voice what I believe. It was important; I thought it was necessary and I really wanted to do that. I wanted my teammates that were doing things to know that I had their backs and was with them. That's something that I'll do for the rest of my life with not only this cause but other things that may happen in the future and whatever I encounter in life. I'm gonna stand up for what I believe in and support those that I love.
TDN: What does a successful sports career look like for you? And I say that vaguely because it seems like you're going to have a future in sports regardless of how long an NFL career lasts.
BW: It's about impact and legacy. Obviously, I want to play for longer than Tom Brady; I want to play as long as I possibly can. But you didn't say playing football, you said sport, and I will never, ever get tired of sports. I want sports to be a part of my life, as long as I live, and so I don't know all the details and what that includes and what that will look like over the next few years and over a long, long period of time. But what I do know is that a successful sports career would have me leaving a strong legacy that I'm proud of and impacting. Whether it's teammates, coaches, or just people in general, are the people I'm working with impacting the world in a positive way, in a way that inspires others? So, it doesn't necessarily mean that I need to go be, you know, Mother Teresa, but it's just the interactions that I have with others and sparking something within them to go be better or to just improve; that would mean a lot to me.
There's a lot of people that can make ripples, little waves with their impact. I think they just undervalue themselves; really valuing who you are and the impact that you can make is important.
TDN: How are you prepping for the draft? This is unlike anything we've ever seen without the NFL Scouting Combine as we've known. What’s been your process and how are you making yourself known in a tough quarterback class?
BW: I'm just extremely grateful to be in the position that I am. It's a wacky year, but it's an opportunity to show how resilient you are and to show what you can overcome. At the end of the day, I still have the opportunity to (go) to the NFL so I'm extremely grateful. I'm also just going to control what I can control; there's so much that we get caught up with and it causes stress. It causes anxiety. It causes a bunch of things that you don't want to go through and experience. Whatever cards I'm dealt, I'm going to play with those cards and make the best of it.
This year with no combine and all the weird deals that we're experiencing, I'm training my butt off every single day. I'm trying to maximize every single second that I can, whether it's training throwing wise, on a whiteboard watching film, the speed training, lifting, or just working on me as an individual and the psychological training; I'm just maximizing that. I'm pushing myself to the limits that I've never pushed myself before and trying to make myself really uncomfortable, because that's where you see growth. Whatever opportunity I get, I'm going to make sure I'm prepared and ready to go and can put my best foot forward. Whenever that time comes and the opportunity presents itself, I'll be ready. I'll be prepared. The next step will be the draft and then actually get into a team. And it'll continue.
- Jun 24, 2022
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