SCRANTON, Pa. – The NFL Network cameras were rolling on Lackawanna College's main campus on Friday, April 17 as network analyst Michael Silver spoke with football coaches and alumnus Kevin White about the upcoming NFL draft.
White, who completed his degree requirements in December 2012 and later made a name for himself at West Virginia University as one of the top wide receivers in the country, is expected to be selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
NFL Network Analyst Mike Silver, left, speaks with Lackawanna alum Kevin White and Head Football Coach Mark Duda in Duda's office.
But his path from wide receiver at Emmaus High School in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, through Lackawanna and WVU, and to top NFL prospect wasn't an easy one, despite his obvious love of the game. In fact, he was redshirted in his first year for several reasons, according to Head Football Coach Mark Duda.
"We had a few athletes here that were good football players. We thought that Kevin from an athletic standpoint was an A-1 guy, but as a football guy had to learn a lot about the game," Duda recalled. "The redshirt came as a blow to him. He was depressed about it, for sure. But as time went on, we realized there was a place for him."
After delaying his participation in the Falcons football program, White hit yet another hurdle.
"After his redshirt year, he comes back in phenomenal shape. But there's a glitch. We have a financial aid problem. It seems like we have paperwork that wasn't signed, so the school didn't have the money to keep him. Even with his scholarship there wasn't enough money to keep him, so he had to go home which was devastating to him and his family and to us, as well," Duda explained.
Coach Mark Duda sits down for an interview with NFL Network Analyst Mike Silver.
While others may have given up on their dreams of playing football, White used it as motivation. He took community college courses and worked out daily until he could return to Lackawanna to become "the best football player in the program" at that time, Duda said.
"We throw him the ball the first time at our indoor facility, he catches it, makes five people miss, and he goes 80. I look at Coach (Charles) Grande, my receiver coach, and he goes, 'Oh, my dear Lord, we have something here for sure.'
"Obviously, he decided somewhere along the way to do everything it took to become a major college football player. It's a wonderful result," Duda said.
On top of learning the more technical aspects of the game, White was challenged at Lackawanna to remain academically fit in order to be as successful off the field as coaches knew he could be on the field.
Kevin White speaks with Head Football Coach Mark Duda and FALC Academic Mentor Rick Barone outside the Lackawanna College Student Union on April 17.
"As far as academics, I had to hit it hard and make sure I was studying because I didn't want to make the same mistake over," White recalled while visiting the Riverfront Sports complex in Scranton where the Falcons conduct indoor practices. "Coach Grande and Coach Duda are strict on grades. One thing that Coach Grande said was that I could serve a Slurpee at 7-Eleven or I could own it. That stuck with me for a long time. You have to have good grades in order to play, in order to practice. They knew how talented I was, but if I was screwing up, nope, you're not practicing. They do it so you can better yourself."
Even following his successes at WVU, White remains fiercely loyal to Lackawanna.
"When a youngster comes out of Lackawanna College, they have a choice. They could embrace being at our school and always be a Lackawanna Falcon, or they can move on and become whatever else they're going to be," Duda said. "If you look at Kevin White's Twitter, it says #lacklife #savagelife. It says Lackawanna College. How come it always says Lackawanna College? Because Kevin White has embraced this institution and what it's done for him, and that's a sign of what you're going to recruit and what you're going to draft on that day. It's a true sign of who he is."
The NFL Network follows Lackawanna alum Kevin White and Associate Head Coach Charles Grande to Riverfront Sports, where the Falcons conduct indoor practices.
Always looking ahead, White said he has no regrets about his struggles to thrive in the junior college athletic experience in order to reach a Division I school.
"A lot of people will say, 'If you had to change one thing in your life or one thing you regret, don't you wish you could have just got the grades and just went to Division I right away?' No. They made me into who I am.
"There's a brotherhood here. All of that #lacklife stuff is not… wanting to be cool. It's the struggles and the hurdles that we had here and to suffer with your brothers and your coaches. Lackawanna helped me in a lot of different ways.
"This is where we all started… This place is home."
The NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 30 and ends on Saturday, May 2. The NFL Network's story on Kevin White is expected to air Thursday evening.