When Arizona State wide receiver and returner Tim White makes a big play — and he does often as the Sun Devils’ top home-run threat — he has a plan. Survey the coverage, find his opening and run the best route to maximize yardage.
Likewise, White needed to develop a plan in the classroom to maximize his potential, which he said he lacked coming out of Hart High School in the Los Angeles area.
“It was tough getting looks [from Div. I football recruiters] because of the grade[s],” he said. “It was tough going out there without a plan. It’s hard to grind when you don’t have the direction.”
White gained the necessary direction in his time at College of the Canyons, a community college in Santa Clarita, California. There, White played for Garett Tujague, now the offensive line coach at Virginia.
White called Tujague “a big inspiration.” The feeling is mutual.
Remembering his time coaching White at College of the Canyons, Tujague said he was inspired to help White reach his full potential — on and off the field.
“The very first conversation he and I ever had was, ‘There’s no question he’s a dynamic player, and I think he has the opportunity to play at the highest level if that’s what he wants to do,’” Tujague said. “The only way he was going to be able to do that was if he got a degree, he reached that goal at every single college he was going to go.”
What White said Tujague and the College of the Canyons offered was structure. A plan is much easier to see through to completion when there is infrastructure in place to help guide the plan.
It’s true on the football field where Sun Devil special teams and offensive strategy make White’s game-changing plays possible. It’s equally true in the classroom, and College of the Canyons put White in a system for his coursework that gave him the structure he said he lacked as a high schooler.
“We had mandatory study hall, and if you didn’t put in the hours every week in study hall, you were not allowed to play on Saturday,” Tujague said. “Every Friday afternoon, I would get a print-out of who had their hours done and who didn’t…Tim didn’t want to let his teammates down with something that that he had every single bit of control over.
The choices that he made let him be a guy we could count on on Saturdays,” he added.
“My problem in high school was I moved around a lot,” White said. “I didn’t really have the opportunity to be in a structured environment where I could sit and learn the material that was given to me.”
White’s is a familiar story in America. Specific numbers from studies into the academic performance of transient students vary, but they are overwhelmingly negative.
A Purdue University study, for example, finds students with less than four months in a district’s curriculum had a collective grade point average more than 0.3 points worse than students in a district at least two years.
Familiarity comes with stability. Stability is inherent with structure.
“Once I got into a structured plan, everything worked out well,” he said.
That may be an understatement. White was an All-Conference performer for the Sun Devils in 2015, and a cornerstone of head coach Todd Graham’s plans for the 2016 season.
In an uptempo offense like Arizona State runs, White’s background as a track and field athlete translates nicely. In fact, Graham notes, White came onto the Sun Devils’ recruiting radar thanks to Arizona State track coach Greg Kraft.
White excels in the triple jump, an event in which he reached the U.S. Olympic Trials this past spring.
A clear plan and the framework to see it through helps White balance two sports, his studies, and fatherhood. That sort of commitment takes a “mental maturity,” as Graham described that, not every 22-year-old has.
“I call him an old soul,” Graham said. “When I met Tim White, there was no doubt because of just the mental maturity and the character that he has, and he’s a guy that’s very well-respected on our team in a very short period of time.”
Tujague gave Graham’s assessment of White an enthusiastic endorsement.
“Old soul, that’s a great way of describing Tim,” he said. “Very down to earth, very humble and hard-working. It’s not about the hype and flash. It’s about the result.”
Results-oriented as White’s approach may be, his game has flash to spare. He caught 57 passes in 2015, eight of which went for touchdowns. He electrified as one of the nation’s premier kick returners, averaging 27 yards per attempt and reaching the end zone once.
His exciting style on game day commands attention. The effort he puts in on practice days inspires respect.
That’s another trait he worked to develop at College of the Canyons.
“He’d always been a leader athletically, but he’d never been asked to be a leader…to inspire others,” Tujague said. “It was the demonstration of his work effort. He should win every sprint, regardless if it’s sprint 1 or sprint 50. Those types of things, the players around him see him go as hard sprint 50 as sprint 1.”
“When he was able to do that,” Tujague continued, “Show his teammates he can excel on the field, he can excel in the weight room, he can excel in the classroom…it made it a lot easier to coach the team.”
White’s leadership may have made Tujague’s job as a coach easier, but Tujague’s approach won the dedication of his players, as White described.
“He was a player’s coach,” White said. “He wanted the best for his players. That was one thing me and my teammates from College of the Canyons always talk about, how he had our back during games and off the field, too.”
Tujague left College of the Canyons to join Bronco Mendenhall’s staff at Brigham Young in 2013, recruiting White in 2013. White opted for Arizona State, and Tujague followed Mendenhall to Virginia in the past offseason.
The Sun Devils now have at least one supporter in Charlottesville.
“Sitting in staff meetings between games, if I see a big play I’ll hit [White] up on Facebook or send a text message to let [him] know I’m watching and proud. That’s important to me.
It’s fun to watch the success Tim’s had.”
It’s all part of the plan.