How 5'6" Quarterback Desmon White Earned a Scholarship from a Big 12 School

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How 5'6
Rita Bell Photography

What happens when a Texas high school quarterback who is named the offensive player of the year in the state's highest classification initially fails to receive a scholarship offer from a major college program because he's only 5'6" and 155 pounds?

That's the predicament DeSoto High's Desmon White faced this season, and this is his story.

For every prospect who fits the profile Division I coaches seek, there are thousands like White who lack one measurable attribute or another.

White had a prep resume that would make most 5-star recruits jealous. In his four years on the DeSoto varsity—two as the starter—he has racked up a whopping 8,095 yards passing, 4,071 yards rushing and 122 touchdowns.

However, entering the 2013 season, he didn’t have a single FBS offer and only rated as a 2-star recruit (he has since been upgraded to a 3-star). White’s only offer prior to this season was from Division II Harding (Ark.) University.

Clearly, his measurables, or lack thereof, were the primary reason coaches from the 26 FBS, FCS and Division II schools in White’s football-crazy home state of Texas deemed him unworthy of a scholarship offer.

Instead of being presented with offers, White encountered doubters. However, as Claude Mathis, White’s high school coach, points out, he never let his detractors get him down.

“If you keep on doubting him, he’s going to prove you wrong,” Mathis said.

Pic courtesy of DeSoto HS/Rita Bell

Those doubts were nothing new to White.

“Everybody told me that I wasn’t going to be able to play quarterback because of my size,” White said. “My sophomore year (at DeSoto), I knew that I had the chance to play because every time they put me in the game, I made things happen, and I found a way to score touchdowns for my team.”

After White piled up more than 1,400 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns in spot duty as a sophomore in 2011, Mathis unleashed him as the triggerman for his high-octane attack the next season.

Desmon White By the Numbers: Passing
Year Pass Completions Pass Attempts Yards TDs INT
2010 1 1 13 1 0
2011 54 88 734 7 0
2012 240 388 3,521 34 7
2013 248 369 3,827 39 7
Total 543 846 8,095 81 14

Stats courtesy of DeSoto HS

Desmon White By the Numbers: Rushing
Year Rush Attempts Rush Yards TDs
2010 15 105 1
2011 75 714 9
2012 172 1,335 12
2013 188 1,917 19
Totals 450 4,071 41

Stats courtesy of DeSoto HS

The results were staggering. In his final two high school seasons, White led the Eagles to a 28-2 record. This season, he piloted an offense that averaged 52 points per game, earning Texas Class 5A offensive player of the year honors, as noted by David Just of the Dallas Morning News. Past winners of that award include Drew Brees, Vince Young and Cedric Benson.

White’s numbers aren’t a fluke either. He plays in one of the most talent-rich districts in the country.

In 2013, the Eagles defeated six playoff teams in the regular season and made it to the 5A Division I state semifinals before falling in a heartbreaking 42-35 loss to Allen, a team that finished ranked No. 2 in the nation, according to USA Today.

Pic courtesy DeSoto HS/Rita Bell

Even though the lack of attention in the recruiting process was always in the back of his mind, White never let the uncertainty surrounding his future affect his performance on the field.

That’s not to say it was easy to see teammates and friends he played against earning offers from big-time schools. In the last two years, 14 DeSoto teammates received FBS scholarships ahead of White. Considering that he was the team’s biggest star on game days, White admittedly grew frustrated when recruiters acknowledged next-level potential in the rest of the Eagles standouts.

DeSoto Teammates Who Were Offered Before Desmon White
Class Player Position Star Rank School
2013 Brandon McDowell WR 2-star Texas State
2013 Taylor Lewis DB 3-star Oklahoma State
2013 Zach White DB 2-star Houston
2013 Myron Turner DB 2-star Utah State
2013 Taylor Young LB 2-star Baylor
2013 Aubrey Beal OL N/A Air Force
2013 Sergio Phillips OL 3-star San Diego State
2013 Dontre Wilson RB 4-star Ohio State
2014 Nick Orr DB 3-star TCU
2014 Vontre McQuinnie DB 3-star Oklahoma
2014 Howard Wilson DB 2-star Louisiana Tech
2014 Shaq Jackson DL N/A North Texas
2014 Johnavan Graham DL N/A North Texas
2014 Chris Lacy WR 3-star Oklahoma State

Data courtesy of coach Claude Mathis, DeSoto HS

“It did get to me some, but I tried not to think about it,” White said. “I looked at what I’m doing compared to what they are doing, but I decided to just play football and let everything else take care of itself.”

Pic courtesy of DeSoto HS/Rita Bell

Mathis estimates that more than 100 recruiters at levels ranging from JUCO to FBS visited DeSoto in the spring, yet none of them tendered an offer to the Eagles' most dominant player.

Before the season, in an effort to get college coaches to take notice, Alvester Bobby, White’s father, sent him to summer camps at schools such as Texas A&M, Baylor, TCU, Houston, UT-San Antonio and Sam Houston State.

Together, Bobby and his son made sure to target camps that other highly ranked players would attend, with their theory being that the presence of those players would also benefit White if he performed well.

However, it didn’t quite work out that way.

White said counselors and coaches largely concentrated on interacting with the bigger-name players who were already known entities.

He even competed at the Elite 11 regional camp in his area, but despite a solid performance, he wasn’t selected to move on to the finals.

“They liked me a lot,” White said. “After the camp, Trent (Dilfer) told me that I was one of the best quarterbacks there, but that it was just uncommon for a quarterback my size to play big Division I football.”

In addition to White attending camps, Mathis was aggressive in trying to get the attention of college recruiters on his behalf. He estimates that he sent film of White to more than 50 schools.

“I’ve talked to...everyone possible, recruiters and scouts included, to get the word out on Des,” Mathis said. “It’s not like they didn’t know who he was. They all knew about him because the other coaches in the area always talk about him.”

White led DeSoto to convincing wins in games against teams anchored by 5-star recruits such as Myles GarrettEdward Paris and Solomon Thomas. In four games against teams led by players deemed the best in Texas by recruiting services, White averaged 324 yards of total offense and three touchdowns per contest. More importantly, DeSoto went 4-0 with an average margin of victory hovering at 25 points per game.

Even though college coaches and members of various recruiting services flocked to the Dallas area in droves, White didn’t receive any stars on sites such as Rivals or 247Sports until October of his senior season.

Mathis said that a handful of college coaches recruiting the area had an affinity for White, but his size alone prevented them from showing interest in him.

“There were coaches from about two or three different Big 12 schools that told me they are rooting for Des,” Mathis said. “That is a true story. They love him on film. They love him off the field. It was like, ‘If he were two to three inches taller, Coach, we’d pull the trigger.’”

Mathis also recalls one coach from FCS school Sam Houston State “beating down my door for Des,” only to be overruled by another member of the Bearkats staff.

After hearing opinions such as those, Bobby admits that the thought crossed his mind that his son's prep career would conclude without landing an offer from an FBS school. However, after watching Des defy the odds at every level, his belief remained strong.

“I knew sooner or later someone would take a chance because this kid, his numbers are unreal,” Bobby said. “I knew at least one school, even on the Division I level, would give him an opportunity.”

Pic courtesy of DeSoto HS/Rita Bell

It’s no secret that most college coaches, including Alabama’s Nick Saban, have a desired height and weight range for prospects at every position.

Data courtesy of 247Sports
Des White vs. 247Sports Top 20 Dual-Threat QBs in class of 2014.

What’s also clear is that whatever position that White plays on the college level, whether it be receiver, quarterback or corner, his compact frame simply doesn’t measure up to the prototypical elite recruits at those positions. Whether he can hold up physically to the rigors of FBS-level football is a legitimate concern for coaches.

However, the value of his intangible qualities and playmaking ability is impossible to rank in a star system.

Recruiting services are designed to identify the nation’s Top 100 or 200 prospects for fans. However, more than 3,000 kids receive FBS offers every year, and it’s up to recruiters to find good value in players 101-3,000.

“The thing about recruiting is that a lot of the great players out there are not 4- and 5-star kids,” Mathis said. “More of them are 2- and 3-star kids, and even kids with no stars. You have to give those kids a chance.”

In White’s case, he wasn’t suffering from a lack of exposure. Instead, the vast majority of college recruiters either determined that he was not a college-caliber athlete upon first glance or simply passed him over based on size alone.

Asking White to be a college quarterback at his size is understandably a risky proposition for any college coach. However, his sub-4.5 speed and natural ability in the open field are traits that should warrant at least a few coaches to consider offering him as an athlete.

“If you get a kid like Des, who puts up the numbers that he does, has his team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation, and you are still not offering him anything, I think something is wrong with that,” Bobby said.

Pic courtesy of DeSoto HS/Rita Bell

White’s philosophy regarding his future has always been to excel at the things that were under his control. He and his support system approached his recruitment with that same proactive attitude.

“A lot of us small players get overlooked. It is what it is,” White said. “They didn’t want me, so I just moved forward and went with the schools that did pay attention to me. Just keep a positive attitude and keep performing on the field and good things will come later on.”

That meant showcasing White’s talents at as many camps as would take him, getting his film into the hands of all the college coaches they could contact and creating a nearly 12-minute highlight reel and posting it on YouTube.

White exhales with a hint of a chuckle as he recalls the day the burden of his playing future lifted. At around 2 p.m. on Oct. 2, Mathis called him into his office and handed him the phone.

“It was the coach (Dan McCarney) at North Texas, and he said they were going to offer me to come in as an athlete and a kick returner,” White said. “I was shocked, and relieved that I finally got that offer.”

The tender caught White off-guard, considering that he hadn’t heard from the Mean Green last spring or in the summer. That didn’t stop him from committing a day later. Three weeks after his North Texas offer, Big 12 power TCU pulled the trigger and offered the electric athlete. Both schools also promised him a chance to compete at quarterback, with a move to receiver his likely destination.

It didn’t take White long to jump on the chance to showcase his talents in the Big 12.

“TCU is a really good school and one that Ive always really wanted to go to,” White said. “They play in the Big 12 against teams like Oklahoma and a bunch of other really good teams. They told me that I can come in and help a lot, so that’s why I went ahead and committed.”

For White, the two offers validated the body of work that he’s compiled in his prep career.

It also struck a blow for all those players whose profile doesn't fit the recruiting mold.

“When you turn on the film with your staff and coaches and finally evaluate this kid, he’s a no-brainer,” Mathis said. “I think TCU and North Texas took the time out to really look at him and in the end, that made it very easy for them to pull the trigger and offer Des.”

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.

 

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