Millville High School football coach Jason Durham couldn’t have picked a better word than “special” to describe Antoine White.
You may find an elite talent comparable to the 6-foot-3, 270-pound two-way lineman on the field, but one would be hard-pressed to locate a person with White’s makeup off the gridiron.
Between the lines, White has dominated at practically every level — especially high school. At the end of his sophomore campaign, White’s first official Division I full scholarship offer rolled in from Rutgers University. But following a junior season that saw White record 80 tackles (14 for a loss) and six sacks, the floodgates opened.
White received 15 full-ride D-I offers from the likes of Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Central Florida and North Carolina, before finally deciding in July on Penn State, where he’ll enter the fold as a defensive tackle. One look at White on the football field, and it’s easy to see why schools were lining up for his services.
With White, however, Penn State is getting much more than an athlete. The Nittany Lions are bringing a humble, hard-working kid into the fold.
“Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play for a major Division I program,” White said. “I paid attention, I knew what that stuff was and my biggest goal has always been to make sure my mom and dad would not have to pay for me to go to college. Not with all that they’ve done for me.”
White, who was born in Philadelphia, spent the first five years of his life in various foster homes before Stacey and Corey White came along. The couple adopted Antoine through the Division of Youth and Family Services, a decision they couldn’t be any more thrilled about.
“Adoption is something we knew we wanted to do, and once we started visitations and met Antoine, we knew right away he was the one,” said Stacey, who along with Corey have another adopted son, 14-year-old Da’mir White. “He went from home to home to home, and when we first got him, he had trust issues. But if you look at him when he was five compared to now, he’s a totally different kid.
“Antoine would give somebody the shirt off his back if they needed it. We really couldn’t be more proud of all that he’s done.”
And rightfully so, because Antoine is the type of person that goes the extra yard.
On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, White is up at 6 a.m. for school, attends practice and then goes straight to work at Taste of Italy Pizzeria on Main Road in Vineland, where he is a cook trying to save money to bring to college.
Other days, White is up at 5:30 a.m. and at Millville by 6 a.m. for an hour-long weight training session before school.
When White works, it’s typically until 10 p.m., at which time he comes home and hits his other major competition — the books.
White takes his studies seriously, and that will allow him to leave Millville in January, if all goes according to plan, for early enrollment at Penn State.
If anyone is ready for that drastic transition, it’s White.
“He’s a very mature young man,” Durham said of White. “I think if you have a kid that’s not as mature as he is, you might be more concerned about him leaving early.
“It’s essentially a free semester for him. He’s a guy who, when he gets in there, will get a jump on his classes, he’ll get to lift weights and eat (with the team), and get 10 or 12 practices in spring ball with them and get an opportunity to compete.”
Durham sees White as the type of player who will make an impact at the next level.
The sixth-year Thunderbolts coach recalls getting White as a freshman and realizing his potential. What he’s evolved into has been so much more than maybe even Durham could have imagined.
“He’s such a special person, a wonderful human being, and I think that goes a long way,” Durham said. “You combine that with his talent and work ethic, and you have a really unique individual.
“Because of his willingness to learn, and then you combine that with the tools that obviously Penn State thinks are there, he’s going to wind up being a very good football player for them.”
To this point, White’s main focus was wrapping up that scholarship while trying to help Millville win a Group V South title. There was a sense of relief when White signed on at Penn State, but don’t expect a letdown out of the big man.
“Getting that full scholarship is definitely a big accomplishment, but I’m not going to stop there,” White said. “There is going to be a lot of hype to live up to and I don’t want people to think I don’t have that fire anymore. I’m going to be the kid who plays like he never had an offer.”
White’s outlook on life is refreshing considering what some would conceive as unfortunate circumstances surrounding his youth.
“I feel no hatred about it,” White said. “I have no clue where I’d be without my parents, so I thank God all the time. I believe everything happens for a reason, like a domino effect, and this is where I am.”
There’s no question White is home in Millville.