VANCLEAVE -- Chris White came home to Vancleave Monday carrying with him a gift from the NFL -- a gold, commemorative football from Super Bowl 50.
White, who played for New England in Super Bowl XLIX (49), graduated from Vancleave in 2007. After leaving Vancleave, White helped Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to the junior college national crown in 2008 and later played for Mississippi State. He was drafted in the sixth round by Buffalo and acquired in 2013 by New England from Detroit as a special team specialist.
His acquisition by the Patriots put him in the game pitting New England and Seattle.
"It was amazing," White said of playing in the Super Bowl, noting that most NFL players never get the chance to play on the NFL's biggest stage. "However, when we were down 10 points to the Seahawks with nine minutes left play, I thought it was over, we are done. But Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns and we won. I love Brady."
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Even though White admits his favorite moment in football was winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy, he said his favorite level of play was high school.
"It's hard to beat high school football," White said. "You are 16, 17, 18 years old - it's just fun. I have a lot of good memories from football."
Speaking to the football team, White told them to cherish the time they had now, telling them they would re
member the coaches and the times they had together.
"You will have memories of playing football for the rest of your life. It really is special," he said.
A lot of the fun in football is removed as you move up the through the levels as the business side takes over, he said.
Former Vancleave football coach Jim Bloomfield, who now coaches at St. Patrick, said he remembered White for his hard work.
"He was tough player and a super teammate," Bloomfield said. "You could always count on him to be there and do his best."
Bloomfield told the student body that White "set goals for himself. A lot of students dream, but he worked hard in practice and in the weight room to get what he wanted."
Bloomfield said White continued to demonstrate hard work even after graduating from Vancleave, coming back to work out and give his expertise to players still in high school.
The importance of hard work was White's main message to Vancleave's student body, telling the students they will go further if they work at what they are doing.
"It's really important to work hard," he said.
Bloomfield said White showed his willingness to sacrifice for the team after the team's starting fullback went down with an injury in the jamboree game.
"He had to go both ways his senior year," Bloomfield said. "Even though he had to divide his time between offense and defense, he was making every tackle and dominating games."
In his only year at fullback, White rushed for 604 yards and 10 touchdowns. He finished with 267 tackles at Vancleave before signing with Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he had 204 total tackles in two years. From there, he signed with Mississippi State -- his third team with a Bulldogs mascot -- and recorded 110 stops in 2010, with a career high of 15 tackles against Kentucky.
Vancleave head coach Lavon Capers remembers White as more than just a talented player.
"I just remember how good of a person he was," Capers said. "He had a tremendous work ethic and a great attitude. He always treated other people with respect."
Capers said he coached other players with as much talent or more than White, but White was the best player he coached.
"The type of person he is set him apart from other players," he said.