By Bob Ford, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Brian White was on his way to try out for the high school baseball team when he heard his buddies from the football squad calling his name.
They were running around with sticks in their hands, bashing into each other and generally having a great time. So White never made it to the baseball field. He took a detour into lacrosse, and has never regretted the decision.
“Picking up the ball and running with it, hitting people, it’s a lot better than standing around at shortstop,” he said.
White, 22, comes into the Spectrum tonight with the Boston Blazers for a Major Indoor Lacrosse League game against the Philadelphia Wings.
A 6-foot-1, 210-pounder, White stayed with the contact sports he prefers through a collegiate career at Dartmouth, where he played three years of varsity lacrosse and was a first team all-Ivy League defensive back on the football team.
Last fall, White played with the New England Patriots of the NFL and the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League before joining the Blazers for the indoor lacrosse season. Tonight’s game is his second on the active roster as he makes the adjustment not only from football, but from the very different outdoor version of lacrosse.
“I use my speed a lot in the outdoor game,” White said. “There’s not so much opportunity to do that indoors. You have to learn to work off picks, and you have to be physical. That’s no problem for me. I tend to be a little bit overaggressive, but it’s all clean, of course.”
White gets his competitive spirit, if not his taste for contact, quite naturally. He is the son of former Boston Celtics guard Jo Jo White, who played 12 years in the NBA and won two championships.
Brian White played basketball growing up, too, but only as a competitive bridge between the fall and spring seasons. He may have benefited by growing up with a well-known father, but it didn’t affect his choice of sports.
“Sometimes the comparisons are hard on you, but my parents never pressured me,” White said. “Sometimes it’s an advantage. You might get a second look because of it. But I think seeing how competitive my father was also helped me push harder with my own performance.”
“He’s developed his own achievements,” said Jo Jo White. “He’s one of those kids who puts his head, heart and soul into everything. And for whatever reason, he migrated to the sports with a lot of physical contact.”
Making it in professional football is the short-term goal for Brian White, who is working as a sales representative for a telecommunications company in Boston. He is expecting to play overseas in the World League this spring, with the hope of being invited to another NFL camp in the summer.
“He showed he could play last year. Now, it’s just a matter of improving his skills,” said Tyler Goldman, who works with sports attorney Leigh Steinberg, White’s agent. “He’s great in a combine-type workout, because he can run a 4.4 40-yard dash, has a vertical leap of 40 inches, and he’s 210 pounds. He’s got the raw tools. He just needs playing time.”
For lacrosse, White trimmed down to 195 pounds, but he’ll keep the added bulk this winter, to stay ready for football and to help administer the requisite crunches of the indoor game. The Blazers are 4-2 in their 10-game season, as are the Wings, and both teams are jockeying for playoff position.
“I’ve used this year as a learning experience both for football and lacrosse,” White said. “I’ve kept my eyes and ears open. I’m going to have some options in football, and playing lacrosse is something I’ve always really enjoyed. It’s a thrill to be able to do that on a professional level, too.”
His fallback position isn’t bad, either. He plans to take his political science degree from Dartmouth and apply for admission to Harvard Law School. But that is at least a few body checks and hard tackles down the line.
“My legs will tell me when it’s time for that,” White said. “Right now, I’m young and I’m going to see what happens.”
(Philadelphia Inquirer, February 24, 1996)