FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When quarterback Tom Brady looked to his left during a drill at the New England Patriots' recent mandatory minicamp, he called out the name of the player to whom he intended to throw the ball.
“I’ve got Sweet Feet!” Brady said with authority.
He was talking, of course, about James White, the Pats' running back and Super Bowl LI standout who was a top MVP candidate in the game alongside Brady. White, a 2014 fourth-round draft pick from the University of Wisconsin, had the game of his life, with 14 receptions for 110 yards and one receiving touchdown to go along with two rushing touchdowns and a successful two-point conversion rush.
“Tom and Josh call me that,” White said with a laugh, referring to Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “Random people do it sometimes, too. It’s cool. It switches it up, makes it a little bit of fun.”
The nickname, which White also has adopted on his @SweetFeet_White Twitter account and @sweetfeet_white28 Instagram account, has quite the history. It traces back to White’s senior year at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“It’s actually a ridiculous story how it happened,” said Adam Aloma, the creative writing teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas who came up with the moniker. “One of the things we used to joke about was that he needed a good nickname for when he gets to the NFL, because James White is such a plain name.”
So on Homecoming Week 2009, “Sweet Feet” White was born.
"During Homecoming Week, they always have a pep rally," Aloma said. "A teacher is always asked to come up with an entertaining, fake story to tell the crowd about some type of tradition at St. Thomas and why we’re playing this team and what it means. Just to get the crowd kind of hyped up.
“They asked me to do it, and I treated it as a joke. We were playing Boyd Anderson, a high school whose mascot is the Cobras, and my story was how it was tradition that St. Thomas stomps out the cobras. The whole story went back to James White’s great, great grandfather, who came to St. Thomas, and there was a cobra on campus that was terrorizing everybody. Everybody was scared of the cobra. Nobody knew how to handle it. Administration was scared. Everyone was locked in their rooms.
“But James’ great, great grandfather was the only one brave enough to step into the hallways. His feet were so quick that he knew he could try to stomp on the cobra’s neck without getting bitten. So I referred to him as ‘Sweet Feet’ White and said, ‘That’s why James’ new nickname is James 'Sweet Feet' White.’”
Those in attendance at the pep rally got a kick out of the fictional story, and sure enough, some began to call White by the nickname.
“I thought it was kind of weird at first,” White said with a chuckle. “But it kind of stuck.”
It sure did, from the halls of St. Thomas Aquinas High School to the Patriots’ practice field and beyond.
Meanwhile, on the football field, the "legend" of James "Sweet Feet" White continues to grow.