LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was in the middle of praising Devin White in front his teammates when the surprise walked in.
"Devin White is up for the Butkus Award, right?" Aranda said in a video released Tuesday by the LSU athletic department. "And I'm proud of him. I'm proud of Devin, how Devin handles the day-to-day. All the work ...”
Suddenly, Matt Butkus, the son of legendary linebacker Dick Butkus, walked into the room, raising the trophy that's given to the nation's top linebacker in his right hand.
"Did you say that he was up for it?" Butkus asked. "Or that he won it?"
White was embraced by his teammates, then stepped to the front of the room to become the first LSU linebacker to receive the Butkus Award.
"I ain't gonna lie; I'm holding back tears right now," said White, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior, who beat out finalists Josh Allen (Kentucky), Devin Bush (Michigan), Tre Lamar (Clemson) and Dylan Moses (Alabama) for the award. "It's another great moment in my life; but you know it wouldn't happen without y'all being here, working with y'all. Just thankful. I'm just thankful. I love all of y'all."
White has established himself as one of the greatest linebackers in LSU history, joining former players from Mike Anderson to Michael Brooks to Bradie James in the pantheon of top-level defenders.
White led the Butkus finalists with 115 total tackles (tied for 28th nationally), and he is the seventh player in LSU history to record 100 tackles in consecutive seasons. White leads LSU with 12 tackles for loss, and his two forced fumbles include a strip-fumble against Texas A&M that resulted in a defensive touchdown.
His 133 tackles last season rank fourth all-time in a single season in program history. He needs just four more tackles in the Fiesta Bowl against No. 8 Central Florida on Jan. 1 to crack the top 10 again this season.
Monday morning, White made sure to let everyone know he was playing in the bowl game, posting on Twitter that he still had a lot of "business to handle."
And White has handled plenty of business already.
The son of Coesha Standokes-White and Carlos Thomas, White grew out of legend in small-town Cotton Valley, where he played running back and linebacker at North Webster High.
White was actually thought to be a running back at first. He rushed for 5,031 yards and 81 touchdowns in his high school career, and he was ranked the No. 5 running back of the 2016 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.
Even this season, White campaigned with media and lobbied the LSU coaching staff to let him run the ball in a game.
But he never got his carry. LSU coach Ed Orgeron remarked in August that White was too valuable as a linebacker to lose to an offensive injury.
White established his value early, played as a true freshman and was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team in 2016. One of his best games that season came against Louisville in the Citrus Bowl, when he recorded five tackles and sacked Heisman Trophy quarterback Lamar Jackson in a 29-9 win.
White followed with a stellar sophomore season, when he was named the team MVP, All-SEC first team and second-team All-America. He was the first SEC player to be named the league's defensive player of the week four times in one season.
White was also named a permanent team captain — a leadership position he commanded throughout this year.
When starting quarterback Joe Burrow arrived in the summer as a graduate transfer from Ohio State, the two formed a bond and created a bet: If White intercepted Burrow during preseason camp, Burrow would pay White $100.
Burrow never had to pay $100.
Then, when there was a player-led meeting following three player suspensions and two quarterback transfers during preseason camp, fellow inside linebacker Jacob Phillips said White did much of the talking.
"He's the voice of the defense," Phillips said then. "He's the leader."
White endeared himself to LSU fans with his country lifestyle, maintaining his own mare, Daisy Mae, at Farr Park Equestrian Center, a few miles from Tiger Stadium.
Last week, White stirred a social media craze when he rode Daisy Mae around campus on his way to a school presentation, where he showed classmates how to saddle a horse.
Louisianans had already stirred their own social media craze when White was ejected for targeting near the end of the Mississippi State game, which meant he'd have to sit out the first half of the Alabama game.
The "Free Devin White" movement fundraised over $6,200 to put billboards voicing fan displeasure at the SEC headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.
White was grateful for the support.
"I don't think people really understand how much I like this game," he said the Monday following LSU's 29-0 loss to Alabama.
White is considered by multiple media organizations as a projected first-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
He has not yet announced his decision about whether or not he will give up his senior season.