Markus White remembers the fear.
Not of the unexplained seizures that started shaking his body in seventh grade. But that they might separate him from football.
The seizures could strike anywhere, anytime. What if one jolted him on the field? He can’t forget the trip to the doctor who cleared him to play.
“Ever since then, it’s been like a motivation,” the Washington Redskins‘ rookie linebacker said, “If that can’t hold me back, then what can? If I can still play ball with this condition in the NFL, I have a gift. I’m here for a reason.”
White’s voice is reluctant. He doesn’t like to speak about the seizures. He tries not to think about them.
When the seizures are out of his mind they are out of his worries, and the 23-year-old’s focus returns to shifting from defensive end at Florida State to outside linebacker with the Redskins.
But a reminder comes each day in the medication he takes to combat the problem.
White’s last seizure came in 2008, during his first two-a-day practice with Florida State. He missed the first practice. By evening, he was fine.
“An hour later I’m 100 percent, I’m normal,” White said. “It happens and it’s over. It’s life.”
White initially signed with Rutgers but wasn’t eligible and transferred to Butler Community College in Kansas; 24½ sacks followed. So did being named the National Junior College Athletic Association national player of the year and a scholarship to Florida State.
“He put so much pressure on offensive linemen at this level,” Butler defensive coordinator Tim Schaffner said. “He completely stressed them out.”
Two seizures came, too, during the year White spent in Kansas. Neither occurred on the field. Epilepsy was ruled out, White said, but there wasn’t a clear diagnosis. The current medication seems to control the seizures.
White’s attention at Redskin Park is on the position switch after Washington used a seventh-round selection in April’s draft on him. Size isn’t a problem: White stands 6-foot-3, 266 pounds. Neither is athleticism: He played basketball during his year at Butler Community College.
“It’s a whole new world to me,” White said. “This is a position I want to play very bad. It’s going to take me being confused for a while and needing to understand some things. I’m willing to take that and not look as bright as I would at another position.”