TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State defensive end Markus White's coaches say his best attributes are his high-octane motor and dogged determination to always be the best player on the field.
Oddly enough, White never knows when his motor will stop.
White, a junior from West Palm Beach, Fla., has been suffering seizures since the seventh grade. The first came nearly nine years ago while he was sitting in a science class. The most recent occurred in August while he was sitting in FSU's locker room, preparing for his first practice with the Seminoles.
Each time, White said, he blacked out before waking up in an ambulance. His last seizure left him with a small scar near his left eye. He fell into a row of cabinets before collapsing on the floor.
"I'll just be doing something, and then I'll wake up in a hospital or on the floor," White said. "It just happens."
So far, doctors have been unable to determine the cause of White's seizures. He takes a pill three times a day to help control the seizures.
"They always happen about a year apart," White said. "I can't control it. I don't think the medicine can control it. I can't worry about it. It will mess my day up if I worry about it. I figure if it's going to happen, it's going to happen."
If you believe the FSU coaches, White has too much at stake to be preoccupied by a mysterious medical condition. The top backup to junior end Everette Brown this past season, White was seventh on the team with 29 tackles in 2008. He also had 5½ tackles for loss, one sack and three quarterback hurries.
With Brown leaving for the NFL draft (he was a second-round selection, No. 43 overall, by the Carolina Panthers) and starting end Neefy Moffett graduating, the Seminoles will be counting on White even more this coming season.
"He's one of the most dedicated players that we have," FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "He's got the size, the speed and the skills to be a great player. He's got a great motor. You don't find many players that will give the effort that he does. He has tools very similar to some of the great ones we've had in the past, but he's still learning the position."
White won't have much time to learn this fall. He'll be asked to replace Brown, who led the ACC with 13½ sacks and 21½ tackles for loss this past season.
"I think Markus puts so much pressure on himself because he's so competitive and holds himself to such high standards," FSU defensive ends coach Jody Allen said. "He won't feel the pressure of replacing Everette. He has the self-motivation and desire to be great. I don't think he's thought one second about Everette Brown."
In many ways, White still is making up for lost time. He was a highly recruited player as a senior at John I. Leonard High School in West Palm Beach and signed a national letter of intent to play football at Rutgers in 2006. White moved to the Rutgers campus in Piscataway, N.J., that summer, but then the NCAA ruled him ineligible because of a low SAT score. He worked at a hotel while trying to qualify academically but eventually decided to enroll at Butler Community College in Kansas.
"It didn't go the way I wanted it to go," White said of his time at Rutgers. "I wanted a fresh start."
In his one season at Butler Community College in 2007, White was named the national player of the year by the National Junior College Athletic Association. He helped lead the Grizzlies to a juco national championship, setting a school record with 24½ sacks in 12 games. He led all juco players in sacks and forced fumbles (six).
White was recruited by a slew of four-year colleges, including Miami, Oklahoma and West Virginia. He said he signed with the Seminoles so his father, Andrew White, could attend his games. White said his father tracked his junior college games on the Internet.
"I knew if I could get an opportunity to get closer to home, I was going to take advantage of it," White said.
Andrews is confident White will take advantage of his enormous opportunity at FSU this fall. The Seminoles must replace six starters on defense, including linebacker Derek Nicholson, cornerback Tony Carter and safety Myron Rolle. Sixteen of FSU's top 28 players on defense are either freshmen or sophomores.
"We're very young," Andrews said. "The defense is yearning for a leader."
It might be White, who is finally comfortable in his surroundings.
"I feel like I can step into the role I want to step into," White said. "On all of my teams, I was an emotional leader and a guy who would break the huddle. I couldn't do that last year. I was new and there were a lot of older guys here. I had to learn the system. Now, I can be a leader and my teammates will respect me."
White already has earned the respect of his coaches.
"He's a guy that can be a first-day draft pick," Allen said. "There's a lot of difference between a first-rounder and a third-rounder. The drive is there, and the potential is there. When you put that combination together, it usually happens. There might be a stumbling block along the way. Only time will tell."
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.