Maybe he’s born with it. Maybe it’s hard work. For Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ linebacker, Devin White, it’s a perfectly created blend.
Fifth overall pick in the NFL’s 2019 draft, White learned lessons on loss and mindset young. At 13, White lost his 19-year-old brother, Jae Jae, to a fatal bus accident. Rather than downward spiraling, Devin chose to #GetLive.
Devin chose living life all out because Jae Jae cultivated the mindset. Now, #45 is sharing the #GetLive mindset with his son, his teammates and his Tampa Bay community.
TBPM: What drives you to get up in the morning?
Devin White: Having the opportunity. God blessed me with talent. I won’t waste it. I’m motivated to sharpen my skills and take care of my family. They’re depending on me.
I’m the family glue; football keeps us together. We don’t have family reunions anymore, but everyone reunites by coming to my games and that’s just a vibe.
TBPM: Tell us about your little boy.
DW: Conner is two. He shares the middle name Jewel with Jae Jae. He’s me all over again. He does everything I do, so I try doing the right thing. I try being in his life daily—showing him how much I care for him.
I’m trying to be positive for Conner and for a lot of kids. A lot of kids in the community look up to me.
TBPM: What has surprised you about fatherhood?
DW: Everything. You’re never ready—especially being young. I was 22. You take it on headfirst.
First is seeing how much I can love another person. You love your parents and grandparents, but being a parent is beyond. I’d take a bullet for him, no question. I’ve never felt the way I do being a dad—even when we’re chillin’, just riding in the car. Conner’s a mini me with my blood running through his body.
TBPM: What’s been the most challenging part of fatherhood?
DW: Not having Conner full time; he travels between my house and his mom’s. My mom brings him to Tampa for games. He knows what I do and can spot me in videos.
When he’s away, that’s the hardest.
TBPM: Jae Jae was your mentor. Who mentors your now?
DW: Shaun Houston, my youth league coach, is number one. I thought I was a basketball player, but he knew football was my calling. We travelled the country scouting colleges—been together since day one. He believed in me and stuck around.
I lean on guys in the NFL who played or play the same position. I talk to Bobby Wagner a lot—anybody I can learn from. I’m not at the mountaintop. Every day, I’m climbing. I lean on my coaches, and I believe they’re around to help me. If you gave me a roster number, you’re willing to give me advice.
I ask for phone numbers, call and pick brains. I wanna understand how other players looked at the position. I talk to Derrick Brooks before games: “How’d you use to see this?”
Mentors help me improve.
TBPM: What’s the best part about competing?
DW: Sacrificing everything to win. I’m competing at practice and I’m competing at the game because I wanna win.
It’s not boxing. I’m not in the ring controlling everything. On the team, I’m doing my part to help us win. We say, “Win your one-on-ones.” Winning one-on-ones makes a good team.
I like seeing 11 people, on both sides, working together to win.
TBPM: Did growing up riding horses inform how you approach football?
DW: I went from waking up early to feed horses to waking up early to work out. I went from throwing barrels in barns to tackling guys with just one hand because my hands became so strong. My patience on the field comes from horses.
Horses and football go hand in hand. If I play 15 years, I can still be with my horses when I retire.
TBPM: When Jae Jae passed, you focused on horses. Does football offer the same mental rest?
DW: Football is work. I have a job to do, and I can’t feel sorry for myself.
Football still offers refreshment. I’m in another world on the field—enjoying the energy and happiness.
I don’t take it for granted. Anybody else could’ve had my talent.
TBPM: How much is you’re born with it and how much is your hard work?
DW: I give credit to the Man above: 75% God and 25% me working hard to sharpen the knife.
Watching video of my younger days, what’s different now is what I can do on the field and what the commentators say: They don’t see many doing what I do. I’m rare. My skills set is rare. There are similar people, but they’re not me: Devin White.
TBPM: How do you stay humble?
DW: This success matters, but I’ve had success. I expect myself to excel. At every stage, I’ve succeeded. In high school, I was district MVP. In college, I won the most prestigious award for my position. In the NFL, I drafted high. Expectations are high, and I always meet my expectations—go beyond them. That’s how I’ve always gotten myself where I need to.
Being a good person matters most. What else can I do while I have this spotlight? While everybody loves me, let me give back. I can get people to donate money and serve the community because of what I’m doing on the field. I use my success to make successes beyond myself.
TBPM: How do you rise above the pressure?
DW: Football is what I do. I’m continuing improving with more practice and more studying. I’m never nervous because this is just what I do.
You don’t lock up when you’re interviewing, even if it was Tom Brady, because it’s just what you do.
Football is my routine. I’m there to be the best—practice or game. I’m there to make all the plays—leaving nothing on the field. When you know the expectations and believe you can do it, it’s easy.
TBPM: How does the team keep practice fun?
DW: By going at each other. Nobody’s safe. Just because it’s Mike Evans, one of football’s best receivers, doesn’t mean we don’t challenge him. When Carlton Davis knocked the ball down during today’s practice, I celebrated him like gameday. It’s fun seeing teammates competing and going hard.
TBPM: What word describes you?
I shouldn’t have to tell you to chase what you want. I should have to pull you back from going too hard.
I have a relentless mindset no matter what I’m doing—even watching film. It’s an all-out pursuit. I’m trending up and trying to stay that way because the game doesn’t last forever.
TBPM: What’s important to you?
DW: Becoming a better man. You wanna look great in the spotlight but, behind closed doors, you wanna be great in every area. Areas people don’t see. I wanna know I’m living life and going to bed with peace of mind.
Life: more unpredictable than any NFL game. Odds are high that relentless loyalty to one’s family, one’s calling and one’s community will culminate with an all-out team victory. #GetLive.
- Favorite sports movies: LeBron James’ “More than the Game” and Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance.”
- Favorite song: Anything by NBA YoungBoy. He puts me in the mood before games.
- Learn about Devin White’s GetLive 45 Foundation: https://bit.ly/3trqhM4
Photos provided by Tara Payor unless otherwise noted | *Originally published in the July 2022 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.
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