September 19, 2021

O’Leary: Ticats’ Papi White finding his way in the CFL

Michael P. Hall/

When he was learning the nuances of the Canadian game, Papi White admitted that there was one thing that took a lot of work.

“The waggle,” the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ receiver said.

“That was the hardest thing for me to get used to and then learning instead of only three different receivers learning five.”

Last week against the Toronto Argonauts, White appeared to have no problem with it at all. He stood behind the Argos’ 39-yard line and timed up his route perfectly with the snap, blazing down the field toward the end zone. White slipped between a pair of Argos defenders and very casually hauled in Dane Evans’ pass, taking a push from behind from DB Treston Decoud.

White rose up with a chunk of grass wedged into his helmet and his first CFL touchdown, a play that helped make the Labour Day rematch a one-score game.

The play also caught the attention of NDN Sports on Twitter, an account that tracks Native American sports news and Native American athletes. The account was more than happy to share the highlight of the two players — Evans also has Native American roots — to its 14,000-plus followers.

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Born in Seminole, OK., White is proud to represent his Native American culture and to help bring some representation to the world of pro football.

“It means a lot to me. I take a lot of pride in my culture, especially for all the people back home, it’s a real big thing for me.”

White’s father, Amari, competed in football and track and field while attending Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. Papi said that not only shaped his father’s outlook, but it played a part in his as he grew up.

“It’s a Native American college, a majority Native American college,” he said.

“That was instilled in me early, about making it big and training for more than just myself, playing for my culture and my coaches and my close relatives. I’m playing for something bigger than me.”

He carried that pride and that sense of purpose with him when he crossed the border to come play in Canada. He was signed by the Ticats in April of 2020, after spending the 2019 season in the NFL, trying to find a home with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans.

The 25-year-old played his college football at Ohio University, which is turning into something of a goldmine for CFL talent. White’s Ticats’ teammate, Maleek Irons is an OU alum, as is Toronto running back A.J. Oullette and BC quarterback Nathan Rourke.

Rourke told his teammates about the Canadian game, but it wasn’t something that resonated with White until he came up here. He wouldn’t say things like the waggle are second nature to him yet, but he’s learning. The Ticats’ injury situation may have opened a door to him starting the last two weeks, but he’s working to show that he can be a regular fixture in coordinator Tommy Condell’s offence.

His five-catch, 53-yard and one touchdown showing against the Argos was a good start for that argument. He followed it up with six rushes for 40 yards and three catches for 13 yards in Friday’s win over the Stampeders.

“I need to stay more consistent,” White said ahead of Friday’s game against Calgary.

“I have days where it’s just…bad, you know, like bad ball. I need to stick to a system of being great. I feel like that’s what will help me. Consistency is key.

“That’s something I have to do. It’s basically getting in the playbook.”

While he learns the ropes of the Canadian game and just the professional life, he’s leaned on vets like Brandon Banks, who’s always been happy to give advice wherever he can.

“I’m constantly asking Speedy what he thinks I should do,” he said. “Him and DePo (DeVier Posey).”

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