The Westfield Voice

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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

The Most Under-Appreciated Running Back

            The New England offense has been unquestionably the most prolific in the NFL for well over a decade. It has seen many stars come and go, breaking offensive records as often as they please. Yet, one name has gone unnoticed for far too long. Running back James White is on a record setting pace this year for most catches by a running back in a season. Halfway through the season, he ranks 7th in the NFL in receptions. That is more than the likes of prolific superstar wide receivers Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins.

            White was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft out of Wisconsin. He always had to battle for reps while in college because he played alongside stars such as Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball. While Gordon and Ball held the spotlight, White went underappreciated putting up very respectable numbers. Throughout his four year career, he recorded over 4,000 rushing yards and scored nearly 50 touchdowns.

            Coming to New England for his rookie season, he once again competed for reps with  veterans Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, and Brandon Bolden. He only got 14 touches for 61 yards in 3 games in his first year. The Patriots would go on to win the Super Bowl but White was inactive for the entirety of the playoff run.

            But his fortunes began to change in his second year with the franchise. Early season standout, Dion Lewis, suffered a season-ending knee injury. White was thrusted into a more prominent role in the offense. He was able to turn that into 62 touches for 466 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns. It was a modest start, but White certainly showed glimpses of the player he is today.

White once again improved in his third year appearing in all 16 games, and putting up very respectable numbers that included 99 touches and 5 touchdowns. White made himself a New England icon in Super Bowl 51. With the Patriots trailing 28-3 late in the third, Brady turned to the third-year back, who did not disappoint. White would score three touchdowns, including the game-winning run to complete the improbable comeback.

            Since his magical Super Bowl night, the former Badger has been very involved with the offense, specifically in his role as a pass catcher. He is not just any pass catcher, he has become one of the favorite targets for the great Tom Brady. Brady’s admiration for the fifth year back is blatant as he constantly speaks highly of him.  In an interview with WEEI’s radio show, Kirk & Callahan, Brady said, “I know I talk about James White a lot, but you just couldn’t ask for a better player, a better teammate…someone who is as dependable and consistent as he has been for as long as he’s been here. It has just been an incredible thing for me to watch.”

            It’s not just Brady who enjoys White’s presence in New England. The team voted him in as one of the six captains for the team this year. With a more significant role on the team, White has not shied away at all but rather he has stepped up. After early injuries to Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead, the offense began sputtering. During the offensive struggles, the legendary quarterback demanded more involvement from the running back. White has risen, getting 76 touches for 472 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns. The team has seen a drastically improved offense as well, averaging over 36 points per game during their 5 game winning streak.

            The scrappy back out of Wisconsin has long gone unnoticed but that is quickly changing. He is a folk hero in New England for his role in Super Bowl 51 and is now one of the leaders for one of the best teams in football. He had a big impact on the game last Monday as well, recording 10 catches and scoring the dagger touchdown late in the fourth. Yet, there was more to that as well.

            According to, White recorded his 50th catch of the season during the game, which doesn’t happen that often this time of the season. This is only the ninth time an NFL running back has recorded at least 50 catches through 8 games in the season. He also passed Sam Cunningham for third most catches by a Pats’ running back in their career. He only trails Tony Collins and the great Kevin Faulk. If White continues his career trajectory with the Patriots, he will finally receive his well-deserved appreciation and forever be known as a New England legend.

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