HOUSTON -- In Super Bowl XLIX two years ago, cornerback Malcolm Butler introduced himself to the world with a dramatic game-saving interception. This year, it was running back James White who turned in a Butler-esque performance.
Setting Super Bowl records for most catches (14) and receiving yards (110) by a running back, the Patriots’ “passing back” also scored the final two touchdowns -- rushes from 1 and 2 yards -- while adding a crucial two-point conversion run on a direct snap in the team's comeback from a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit.
It’s no wonder fellow running back LeGarrette Blount said he would have voted White his MVP.
Unlike Butler, who was an undrafted free agent out of West Alabama, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound White came out of a big-time program at Wisconsin (2014 fourth-round pick). So this isn’t the same out-of-nowhere story, but considering he played a season-low 12 snaps in the divisional-round win over the Houston Texans, White wasn’t a player many had as a possible Super Bowl star.
Yet he was the Patriots’ primary option against the Atlanta Falcons, totaling 71 snaps.
“When it ends up being a big James White game, there’s a lot of passing and a lot of pass protection and a lot of route nuance that we’re asking him to do,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “He came through huge for us. What can you say about James? He’s so dependable.”
Added Blount: “It’s not up to him, when and how much he plays, but I know that when he is in there, and when he has a chance to make a play, he always does it for us. On the biggest stage you can be on, he made all the plays we needed him to make.”
That the Patriots wanted the football in his hands with the game on the line spoke volumes.
"He's just everything you want in a teammate and a football player," quarterback Tom Brady said. "Dependable. Consistent. Durable. The best attitude, brings it every day, and we just kept going to him.I think that speaks for itself."
On the winning touchdown run, White said, “It was a toss play. I just had to run through one guy and get the ball into the end zone. I saw a crease. The game is on the line, just got to find a way in.”
White was still taking it all in after the game, unaware that he had set two Super Bowl records.
“It’s really surreal,” he said. “I was just living in the moment.”
A moment that won’t soon be forgotten, as White played an integral part of a comeback for the ages.