INDIANAPOLIS – Amari Cooper’s path from Alabama to the NFL draft was paved in gold. He made an instant impact on the college level, producing early in his career for one of college football’s blue bloods. He was an elite player at an elite school, with all the accolades that come with it.
Kevin White took the long way round. He played two seasons at Lackawanna College because his grades weren’t good enough to earn a Division-I scholarship.
He eventually earned a transfer to West Virginia but didn’t show much in his junior year, the first against major college competition. White only had one more shot to make a positive impression, and he took full advantage of it.
He had an excellent senior season, with 109 catches for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those totals included some big games, including nine receptions for 143 and a TD against Alabama and 10 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma.
“The numbers came from motivation,” White said on Friday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine. “During my junior year, I put some bad film out there. I didn’t show the kind of player I am. As a senior, I put everything on the line and did what I had to do.
“Something finally clicked that season. Now I know what I have to do. I have to work hard and build on what I did last year.”
That production, plus ideal size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and strength (23 bench press reps at 225 pounds, a position best at the NFL Scouting Combine) to succeed at the NFL level. The big test will be his 40-yard dash on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium and his pro day. He needed a good time could combat a perception he has low top-end speed, and he got one.
White ran an unofficial 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash validating a growing belief that White is the best receiving prospect in this NFL draft. After Cooper's 4.42 in the 40-yard dash, that might be tough considering Cooper's other gifts, but each team has its own receiver preferences.
Draft analysts have said he has high risk/reward, and proving himself stable could mean he’s the first receiver off the draft board. That also means he could end up a Raider. The Silver and Black have a huge need at that spot, and White could be their choice. While White hadn't met with the Raiders as of Friday afternoon, he said he expects to meet with them at some point.
White would consider that an honor and hard work finally paying off.
“That would be huge,” White said. “Everyone dreams of being the first person drafted at their position. I’m sure it would mean a lot to Amari Cooper and the other receivers as well.”
Even if Cooper retains top billing, the Raiders could trade down a few spots and still pick up White. The draft remains an unknown until picks come in, but White has impressed in team meetings at the combine. Some of that has to do with the hard, often humbling road he took to get here.
“Starting at Lackawanna was very hard, very difficult,” White said. “But I learned that hard work definitely pays off. A lot of guys there had Division I talent, but didn’t transfer out because they didn’t work hard. I work hard, and I’ve learned firsthand that hard work pays off.”