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He eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career, trailed only Bryan Burnham and Ryan Lankford with 1,345 total yards from scrimmage and along with Brandon Rutley helped give the Lions’ running game a physical element it had perhaps been lacking in recent seasons. But on the day he inked a one-year extension to remain in orange for 2020, John White IV wanted to make one thing clear: he isn’t close to being satisfied yet. Who would be after a 5-13 season that resulted in the player missing out on the playoffs for the first time in his career?
“That’s really all I think about,” said White from his offseason home in Long Beach, California.
“How things went last year is definitely not how it’s going to be the next year. We’re going to set a standard and let anybody new coming in know that they’re going to have to live by it.”
The chance to be part of a turnaround story was only one of the factors that motivated his decision to re-up quickly and not even entertain the thought of testing free agency. Continuity was another important thing for the former University of Utah standout. Namely General Manager Ed Hervey.
“To come back to a team that had a lot of great things going around it, even though the record didn’t speak for itself, it’s just a great organization to be around and having Ed backing me up is always great as well,” he said.
“He brought me into Edmonton and we always stayed in contact even after I was gone from there. He just always showed a lot of faith and trust in my ability. Why not stick around somebody like that?”
“The production we received from John this year is exactly what we had hoped for when we signed him in February,” added Hervey.
“His ability to run the ball combined with his elusiveness in the open field as a receiver was a big part of our offence this year.”
The running back and GM were with the Eskimos from 2013-16. A ruptured Achilles kept White out of Edmonton’s entire Grey Cup championship season of 2015 and the desire to hoist the trophy in uniform is yet another thing that will fuel him. He was also part of a Hamilton Tiger-Cats squad that fell short in the 2018 East Division Final. Another thing on his mind as he soon begins another intense round of offseason training is showing what he can do for a new head coach, something Hervey is aiming to have in the coming weeks. Overall, the approach will stay the same.
“Of course. I’ve got something to prove to myself,” said White on the importance of proving himself to a new coaching staff.
“The coaches are one thing but for myself, it’s about making sure I’m back on track to being an even more high-calibre player for the next years ahead.”
Before the workout program really heats up, it will be a few more days of resting the body after a long grind and playing the role of Daddy Daycare to one-year-old son John V and five-year-old daughter London. His wife Mariah, a Therapist who works with special needs kids, is with their two little ones n Long Beach year-round and now is the time for Dad to make the most of that quality time.
“Those last 44 yards (to get to 1,000) in the last game really took a physical toll,” said White.
“Hanging with the kids has been fun. After six months away I miss a lot of those key moments and milestones with my children and when I get back it goes from 0 to 100 real quick (laughs). I’ve been on Dad duty quite a but there are no complaints. They motivate me.”
“He’s probably going to be more of a defensive lineman because he’s definitely above average weight for his age,” laughed White.
“I don’t see him carrying the ball, more likely ripping it out from other people on the defensive side of things.”
Over the last few offseasons, he has also worked with his own Dad, John III, at the elder’s very successful plumbing business.
“I enjoy that a lot. It’s very humbling,” the younger White said.
“It’s very technical and very detailed work. I have fun doing it but being with my Dad makes it even more enjoyable because we can spend more time together.”
Now we know where he gets that lunch pail work ethic and attention to detail. The squad definitely had its shortcomings in 2019 but the running game should be considered a massive strength when players report to Kamloops in just six short months.
Another 1,000-yard season for White sprinkled in with a little hardware would be the perfect icing on the cake in 2020.