Patriots veteran James White has done it all since Bill Belichick unearthed him as an unheralded fourth-round pick in the 2014 Draft, amassing 35 career touchdowns, 369 catches and three Super Bowl rings (his walk-off touchdown to beat Atlanta capped the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history) across seven NFL seasons. But what White’s resume was missing—until Saturday—was a college diploma. The 29-year-old finally checked that box by completing his studies at the University of Wisconsin (where he starred as a standout running back from 2010-13), earning a degree in Life Science Communications.
“My parents always stressed how important it was for me to get my degree. Every offseason, they would get on me and ask, am I taking classes?” White told Mike Lucas of UWBadgers.com. “It was always at the forefront of my mind."
White had hoped to surprise his parents, secretly taking online classes for years in pursuit of his bachelor’s, but tragedy struck when his father passed away in a car accident last fall. White’s mother was also hurt, but she’s expected to make a full recovery.
“I know he’d be extremely proud,” said White, who returned to New England this offseason on a one-year, $2.5-million contract. “I would see how my dad would study for his promotions in the police department. When I was younger, I didn't realize what he was doing. But as I got older, I realized his dedication to studying and getting those promotions. It was only right I would dedicate myself to finish my work.”
Along with fulfilling a promise made to his parents, White’s academic pursuits were also encouraged by his wife Diana, who holds degrees in biology and accounting from Wisconsin and Southern New Hampshire University, respectively. White’s charitable endeavor, The Sweet Feet Foundation, places an emphasis on education, providing opportunities to underprivileged youth in Wisconsin, Florida (his home state) and throughout New England. "We just want to make an impact in the community and try to motivate kids," said White. "Whether school-related or life-related, we want them to know we're here for them and not just to give them the money to get through college, but to build relationships."
A team captain and the Patriots longest-tenured offensive player (a title that belonged to Julian Edelman until his retirement this offseason), White owns multiple postseason records including most catches in a playoff game (15, tied with Darren Sproles), most receptions in a Super Bowl (14) and most Super Bowl receiving yards by a running back (110).