Ms. White always goes back to her son’s house on game days to whip up a big dinner _ complete with such Southern favorites as collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and corn cakes _ but there was nothing pleasant about sitting through that meal as she went over how he broke the cardinal rule of receivers: If the pass touches your hand, you ought to catch it.
“She told me how bad that was and how bad I was making us look _ like she was actually on the field,” White recalled.
Joenethia believes that’s a mother’s role. Her son will have plenty of people telling him how great he is; what he needs is someone to point out what he did wrong.
“I focus on his mistakes so we can go over them when we get home,” she said. “I need to let him know what he did wrong, what could have been better. I enjoy watching him play, but he has to have someone telling him, ‘It’s not all about you.’”
Momma’s tactics have clearly paid off. Even after Vick was sent to prison for dogfighting and the Falcons used three different starters at quarterback, White had a breakout year in 2007 with 83 catches for 1,202 yards. The next year, he earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl with 88 receptions for 1,382 yards. Last year, he had 85 catches, 1,153 yards and a career-topping 11 touchdowns.
And now, his best season yet. If White keeps up this pace for the final three games of the season, he’ll finish with 122 catches for a staggering 1,500 yards _ one of the greatest performances in NFL history.
“He’s a complete receiver,” said Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, who frequently goes against White in practice. “He can run. He can catch the ball. He can jump. He can make plays on the ball. He’ll block. He can do everything.”
Not bad, considering White didn’t start playing high school football until his junior year. Back then, wrestling was his thing, and he wasn’t too bad at that, either, winning a pair of South Carolina state championships. Those lessons would pay off later in life on the football field, such as this year’s victory over the Baltimore Ravens when he clearly pushed down a defensive back before hauling in the winning pass.
No flag, no foul is White’s motto.
“I learned about using my hands and being physical out there,” White said. “You have to be like that in wrestling to win. That’s kind of what I do. I just go out there and be strong.”
Size was no longer an issue.
Once again, momma knew best.