As he left the meeting, Kevin White wasn’t exactly happy with what he’d just heard.
After an up-and-down junior campaign, the West Virginia receiver had just sat down for a postseason chat with Mountaineers receivers coach Lonnie Galloway. It wasn’t all good, it wasn’t all bad but it was exactly what White needed to hear.
“Coach Galloway told me I have all the aspects to be great, but I only show flashes of it,” White said. “I took it personal.”
White had solid work habits and focus as a junior but something needed to change. He’d combined for 14 receptions for 210 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma and Baylor then combined for three receptions for 61 yards against TCU and Kansas State in 2013 as inconsistency became his trademark. All told he finished with 35 receptions on 83 targets for 507 yards and five touchdowns during his first season as a junior college transfer from Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania.
Thus Galloway’s message was simple.
“[We talked about] attacking each day,” Galloway said. “Each day is a different work day. [It was about] not getting in your own way. Coming out being focused, working hard, being a leader, setting a good example. “
White left the meeting with renewed focus and it started to show. In winter workouts, in spring football and in summer workouts, White brought a different energy to the table.
“The focus and work habit were there in his junior year but they intensified in winter workouts to spring ball to his senior year,” Galloway said. “[He was] finishing first in just about everything. His attitude in the weight room, his attitude in spring ball [changed] and he was being a dominant player in spring ball.”
During the times when nobody was watching was when the light turned on for the Biletnikoff Award Finalist. Preparing for his senior season became his only focus.
“This is my last year, I wanted to put everything aside and focus in 110 percent,” White said. “Whatever happens, happens, as long as I’ve done the best I can.”
White’s senior year was his last chance to show himself, teammates, coaches, fans, NFL scouts and anyone else who doubted his ability to be a dominant receiver.
“I wanted to be a dominant receiver,” White said. “Not the best receiver on the team, the best receiver in college.”
He didn’t earn that honor, as Alabama’s Amari Cooper beat him out for the Biletnikoff, which is awarded to college football’s top receiver. But, he did become a consistent, game-changing threat for the Mountaineers as WVU returned to bowl eligibility after a one-year hiatus.
White’s final season featured 102 receptions in 151 targets for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns including a seven-game stretch to start the season which included seven straight games of 100 receiving yards or more. He torched Alabama’s secondary for nine receptions for 143 yards and one touchdown while his 13-reception, 216-yard performance against Maryland two weeks later set the tone that his dominance was going to become commonplace in 2014. Heading into WVU’s AutoZone Liberty Bowl matchup with Texas A&M on Dec. 29, White has cemented his name among the nation’s best receivers.
“We knew he had it in him,” Galloway said. “You knew that he was going to have a special year. The stuff he’s accomplished is all due to the work he put in.”
In the process he’s gone from fringe NFL prospect to a likely Day 1 or Day 2 selection as one of the nation’s best receiving prospects. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has White as the No. 3-ranked receiver in 2015 NFL draft class and ESPN draft expert Todd McShay has the Mountaineers’ top pass-catcher as the No. 14 prospect overall.
Thanks in part to one offseason meeting followed by a business-like approach that defined his senior season, White has gone from pondering his future to steps away from fulfilling his dream.
“It changed dramatically,” White said of his future. “I knew if I focused in I would be able to play on Sundays despite how my junior season went.
“I always knew I could do it … but the world didn’t know.”