Rookie H-Back Manuel "Manny" White, Jr., is a long way from his hometown of Canyon Country, California. So, for White, comes the question: What's the biggest difference between the East Coast and its Western counterpart? "The humidity. It's hot here," White said following one the particularly steamy days at Redskins training camp 2005.
In his first NFL training camp, White finds himself in a situation where he's trying to learn a new position. As the Redskins prepared to take on the Carolina Panthers in their pre-season opener, White was behind Chris Cooley and Mike Sellers in his bid to earn playing time. He was working hard to impress Redskin coaches.
A devoted Lakers and Raiders fan growing up, White decided in high school that football was the way forward for him. At Valencia High in the San Fernando Valley, White had a phenomenal high school career, producing an incredible 84 touchdowns.
Highly recruited out of high school, the 6-2, 245-pound White chose to attend UCLA because he wanted to stay close to home. As things turned out, UCLA was glad he did.
Over his four year career with the Bruins, White racked up 1,814 yards on 408 carries, an average of 4.43 yards per carry. He played in a total of 40 games, starting 22, and ran for 19 touchdowns. He also caught 52 balls for 518 yards and three touchdowns.
Put it this way: Even before Manuel White stepped on to an NFL field, he had already scored 106 touchdowns at the high school and college levels.
Actually, being drafted by the Redskins in the fourth round (120th overall) wasn't much of a surprise for the talented White. As he explains: "The Redskins worked me out the Wednesday before the draft so I knew they were pretty interested."
In the early going, White worked on learning the intricacies of the H-back position for the Redskins, a highly important spot in head coach Joe Gibbs' scheme. White had played tailback and fullback prior to coming to the Redskins. He's got a lot of learning to do, therefore.
Says White: "The biggest thing with me is the blocking; it's a lot different than what I'm accustomed to at fullback. And when you're out there doing too much thinking, you don't react like you should."
White was one of six players the Redskins drafted in the 2005 NFL draft. The process, he says, "Is like being a freshman again. I haven't got everything down yet. I just need patience. I want to get everything correct now. But I know it comes only through hard work."
He continued: "At times, I think too much and when you're thinking too much and you're second-guessing yourself; that's when you tend to make mistakes. I don't feel like I'm playing at full speed yet."
Another major part of rookie life in the NFL is dealing with the team's veterans every day. White doesn't seem to mind an occasional barb from one of the team's more established players.
Asked about that, he notes: "The guys are pretty good. You carry bags in or whatever, you do what they say and they're pretty cool guys. They're making us sing at dinner. You just go up there and entertain, basically. You have to know your role as a rookie."
The last time the Redskins drafted a UCLA running back, they fared well. In 1998, Skip Hicks scored eight rushing TDs for the Redskins, setting a team record.
If they can get that type of production out of Manuel White this season, Redskins coaches undoubtedly would be overjoyed.