Still wearing the remnants of his childhood dream, Corey White may have looked lost, but he’s sure he is found again.
The former Capitol High School standout moved gracefully up the stairs to the Southern football offices despite his mountainous stature, his burly legs sheathed in baggy gray sweats with a bold “LSU” emblazoned in purple letters on his thigh.
The pants are part of a bygone era, one with an end that White hadn’t envisioned as a touted offensive line recruit coming out of Capitol.
White left LSU without realizing his dream of playing in Tiger Stadium. He spent his redshirt freshman season working toward that goal before leaving the program last year.
Football is only one part of the student-athlete equation, and his grades weren’t up to par with his physical abilities.
“Things didn’t go right, didn’t go the way I wanted to go,” he said. “I got in a bad bind with school. I couldn’t handle it. So I just decided to transfer before I got too far in it.”
LSU coaches sat him down and explained why he couldn’t stick around the program given the trajectory his coursework was taking. White took the news like a sack of bricks to his gut.
“That was my dream school,” he said. “When they sat me down and told me, it was hard. I wanted to stay real bad, but I had to do what’s best for me and my family.”
He spent all of 2012 away from football. For a while, he considered giving up the game altogether, to become “just another college kid” on the campus of Baton Rouge Community College.
But that wasn’t the way he wanted to end his tale. It was too easy.
Staying in his parents’ home and taking classes without the pressure of football, he kept working. He lifted weights every day and ran on the weekends, the gridiron ever-present in his mind.
“Since I sat out the year, I wasn’t backing down from working out,” he said. “I still pushed myself the way I was taught at LSU. I just brought what I learned (at LSU) over here.”
White is penning the next chapter of his story at Southern, this time with careful attention paid to the trappings of the previous one. He’s doing it with the help of a man who was there for him when he was at his best.
Chadwick Germany coached White at Capitol, where he molded him into a four-star prospect. Germany now coaches White as Southern’s co-offensive coordinator, and White called him “a second father.”
“He and his family thought it would be a good deal to rejuvenate that relationship,” Germany said. “It came down to him leaving and finding another place. We just thought being here and continuing that relationship was a good place.”
There were other offers. White’s mother, Betty, said LSU tried to convince her son to attend a junior college to get his grades in order.
But the other places didn’t offer a chance to play at home in front of his family or the opportunity to play for a coach he was familiar with.
“When (Germany) found out I was getting ready to transfer, he was the first person that called me,” White said. “He said he would like me to come over, and he wanted to help me. He would do anything just to get me back to school.”
This past week, White took part in Southern’s first spring practices. He’s not where he needs to be yet physically, the year off adding “five to 10 pounds,” Germany said. But he also noted that White already has asserted himself as a team leader.
And while he’s continuing to find his way on the field, he’s doing the right thing in the classroom.
“When we get a report from teachers on campus, they talk about how hard he works,” Germany said. “How he’s there early every day, he’s there every day. He’s a blue-collar guy. He’s the right guy, the right fit for our program, and I think he’s going to help move our program forward.”
White is an imposing presence on the field. According to LSU’s 2011 roster, his last listed measurements, he stands 6-foot-3 and carries 328 pounds. But he’s a fluid athlete for his size, coming from his days playing AAU basketball.
“He’s a big guy, but he’s light on his feet,” Germany said. “That’s one of the things that you see on TV on Sundays. I always told him that’s a dream I thought he could achieve. … I think he’s here to pursue his dream.”
Even after sitting out an entire year — a year White deemed lost — he’s still striving.
“Corey’s goal is to go play pro ball,” Betty said. “He always tells me, ‘Mama, I’m going to go play pro ball, and I’m going to buy you a home. That’s going to be the first thing I do.’ ”
The NFL, as the zenith of football success, is just one of many aspirations. But in order to reach it, other boxes need to be checked.
“My ultimate goal is to make it to the NFL but to have my degree under my belt first,” he said. “If I get that, I’m set because I’ll have my first goal accomplished, and I’ll have my Plan B to fall back on.”
White realized the importance of school when it almost derailed his playing days. It was music to his mother’s ears.
“I want Corey to go to pro ball, but what I really want him to do is get a degree,” Betty said. “Whatever he does, I want him to get a degree. I tell him, ‘You may not make pro ball, Corey, but always remember school comes first.’ ”
School, like those sweatpants, serves as a constant reminder to work hard or have those dreams whisked away. There are other memories, too: When his former roommate, LSU guard Trai Turner, woke up every morning, the first thing he did was read his list of goals.
White now has his own goals tacked to the wall in his room at his parents’ home. It’s a slip of paper with five short reminders scrawled in White’s handwriting.
“I read them every morning,” he said.
Rapid fire, White recalled them without skipping a beat: “Be on time for everything. Give all you can when you can. Know my playbook. Be a leader. Help others while you can.”
White said the approach has yielded results. A dreamer can only dream if he labors toward those dreams, and White is ready to keep working.
“With the goals you read in the morning, you try to accomplish them each and every day,” he said. “You come out there and work hard and give it all you’ve got.”