I hate to say I told you so, but—well, I don't: On Nov. 28, 2007, I wrote this blog posting headlined, "Bite It, Mel Kiper: Pat White Is An NFL Quarterback."
Since then, Mel has come around on White. He projects White as a second-round pick on Saturday, or a third-round pick on Sunday—not as a wide receiver, but as a Wildcat quarterback/multi-threat. (I'm pulling for second-round, so White can earn first-day money.)
A lot of others have come around since then, too: chiefly, pretty much all of the NFL scouts who saw White, a) throw like an NFL quarterback during WVU's Meineke Car Care Bowl win, b) throw like an NFL quarterback during the Senior Bowl, of which White was the MVP, c) throw like an NFL quarterback at the combine, and d) throw like an NFL quarterback at the numerous workouts White has been ferried to by NFL teams.
There's one guy who still hasn't come around on White, but I've sworn not to mention his name in this posting.
Gone are the days of so-called draft experts yelling that White will have to convert to wide receiver in the NFL; that he has no chance to play quarterback in the NFL.
The problem, and this has been well-documented, is that the NFL is a round-peg-in-a-round-hole league. You're a third-down back, or you're a pass-rusher, or you're a 3-4 linebacker. Or you're a prototypical NFL quarterback, which is to say, you're 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds—mobility not required. Evidently, brains not required, either, and here, we invoke the required first-round quarterback bust, "Ryan Leaf."
Problem is, White is an innovator. There's never been anyone quite like him. Oh, there's the inevitable Kordell "Slash" Stewart references, but Stewart, though as athletic as White, was not the quarterback and, more importantly, not the intelligent field captain White is.
For all of White's many gifts—and I saw the man play every game for four years—his greatest strength is his intelligence. He almost never made a bad play, almost never made a mistake.
If anything, he evolved faster than the game could allow for. For instance, during last year's 24-3 WVU loss to East Carolina, White ran for a first down and headed out of bounds to avoid the big hit. He saw that he had passed the first-down marker and dove out of bounds, setting the ball down just inside the sideline—inbounds—with his left hand, while simultaneously touching the ground outside the sideline—out of bounds—with his right hand. Clearly, the ball was downed when White was out of bounds. First down, WVU.
But the perplexed referees, seeing White out of bounds and the ball, stationary, in-bounds, something they evidently had not seen before, stood befuddled, and made no call. An alert East Carolina Pirate picked up the ball, and the referees incorrectly ruled that White had fumbled. White was ahead of his time and ahead of the game. Consequently, he was penalized for it.
It was the fear that the same thing would happen to White in the NFL draft. Despite being nothing but a quarterback since the seventh grade, despite winning four bowl games as a starter, something no other player had done in the history of college football, despite having a stellar passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio, White—because he is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds—would, of course, have to become a wide receiver in the NFL.
Perhaps he will not be an every-down quarterback. At least not during his first year in the NFL.
Here's betting White will see 10 to 15 snaps per game during his rookie season, make big plays with his arm and his feet and,most importantly, will suck up the playbook and the film and impress his coaches with his intelligence, his leadership, and his "it" quality.
Then, finally, Pat White will be an NFL quarterback.
(Okay, I can't resist speaking the name that Who Must Not Be Spoken: NFL draft "expert" Todd McShay, who evidently has some sort of personal grudge against White. McShay has been the most strident opponent of White being an NFL quarterback. Even in recent days, now that White is finally getting the quarterback respect he deserves, McShay says he is "getting overrated."
Listen: McShay knows more about prototypical NFL players than I do. He's studied the game and its personnel with obsessive attention. But he cannot recognize innovators when he sees them. Further, I don't know if McShay has sources in the league or talks to GMs, but the sense I get from reading the copy of those who do is that they are singing a more positive tune on White than McShay is.
I'm no shrink, but I have a pet theory on McShay's grudge against White. Like White, McShay was an undersized quarterback coming out of high school, but obviously lacked White's gifts. He tried to play quarterback at Div. 1-A Richmond, but washed out at the position, getting switched to defensive back. If I couldn't make it as a quarterback at my size, McShay may be thinking, then White can't either. Just a theory.)
Pat White is an NFL quarterback, and that will be proven in the hopefully many years to come.