- Associated Press - Thursday, December 16, 2010

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA. (AP) - Having finished up a light workout, Roddy White decides it’s time to have some fun. He breaks out a little remote-controlled helicopter _ an early Christmas gift from one of his teammates _ and begins flying it around the Atlanta Falcons‘ locker room.

Well, crashing it might be a better description. The red-and-black contraption _ Falcons colors, appropriately enough _ flies over two rows of stalls, bangs into the ceiling and plummets to the floor on the other side of the room.

“I love toys!” White bellows as he goes to retrieve it.

Which pretty much epitomizes the philosophy of the NFL’s leading receiver, who views the world as his playground and figures everybody else is just along for the ride. Whether he’s scooting around town in his Maserati (“my favorite toy”), playing Wii with his young son (“he gets to be the Falcons and No. 84, so I have to pick somebody else. I usually go with Tom Brady and the Patriots”) or torching an opposing defensive back for another big play, Sharod Lamor White is sure to be having fun.

Don’t mistake his carefree attitude for someone who doesn’t care, however.

Far from it.

White is one catch away from the first 100-reception season of his career and surely headed to his third straight Pro Bowl. He’s the offensive catalyst on a team that leads the NFC with an 11-2 record and is a top Super Bowl contender heading into Sunday’s final road game of the regular season against the Seattle Seahawks.

“He has a lot of fun,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “But don’t get the smiles and the jokes confused with the amount of hard work he puts in as well. Behind all the smiles and laughing and joking is somebody who’s extremely competitive, somebody who’s extremely dedicated to his craft.”

If White loses that competitive edge, he can count on a a familiar voice barking in his ear, reminding them that he can always be better.

“My mom is probably the worst critic of my entire football career,” he said, managing a nervous smile. “When I stink, she tells me I stink. When I’m doing good, she tells me I’m doing OK. She keeps me levelheaded and grounded.”

Joenethia White was the one who got Roddy’s career back on track after he struggled in his first couple of seasons with the Falcons, a first-round pick who took that first big check and spent more time enjoying life away from the field than he did preparing for what he had to do on it.

“He’s focused a little better than he was at the beginning of his career. All he was doing back then was partying,” White’s mother told The Associated Press on Thursday in a telephone interview from her home in South Carolina. “He got a little money and that’s all he wanted to do. I pulled him aside and said, ‘We’re not about all that.’ It’s not about the money. That could be gone in a second.

“You want to do something,” she admonished, “so that people will remember you.”

For White, the turning point came late in the 2006 season, when he dropped a potential touchdown pass from Michael Vick with no one around, helping send the Falcons to their fourth straight loss.

Ohhhh, you should’ve heard his mother after that one!

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