September 23, 2014

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North Ridgeville grad Jordan White only stronger, more determined after two lost seasons

Jordan White says he wouldn’t change anything in his career as a wide receiver for the Western Michigan Broncos.

Jordan White

That includes the North Ridgeville High School graduate’s breakout 2010 season — 94 catches, 1,378 yards, 10 touchdowns, a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation’s top receiver — and the incredible pace he’s set this year as a sixth-year senior.

But it also includes, White contends, the two knee injuries he’s suffered at Western Michigan — an ACL tear in each knee, each suffered in practice and each requiring a year of rehabilitation.

Really? He wouldn’t trade those setbacks in for a smoother road?

“If I could go back and do it all over again, I would go through it again if I had the choice,” White said. “Going through all of that made me better. I learned from the adversity, and six years later, here I am.”

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Where he is, is making an imprint on the WMU record books.

His yardage total last season set a school single-season record, and through five games this season his 668 yards is well ahead of that pace, especially if the Broncos achieve the No. 1 goal on White’s list: a Mid-American Conference championship, which would mean two more games.

The Broncos are 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the MAC heading into Saturday’s home game against Bowling Green.

At his current pace, he’ll also eclipse the Broncos’ career records for catches (260) and yards (3,599), each set by Jamarko Simmons. White has 221 career receptions and 2,946 yards. Along the way, he’d pass Greg Jennings, currently a Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers and whose success played a big part in White attending WMU.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, Jordan gets his catches,” said Broncos coach Bill Cubit, in his seventh year at the helm. “People are seeing that he can play when he’s healthy.”

And White has shown off on some big stages so far: 12 catches for 119 yards at Michigan in the teams’ rain-shortened season opener; 14 catches, 132 yards and a touchdown in a narrow loss to now-No. 19 Illinois; and 12 catches, 173 yards and two touchdowns in the Broncos’ 38-31 win over UConn, which played in the Fiesta Bowl in January.

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Plus, he had 177 yards against rival Central Michigan in a 44-14 Bronco blowout victory, WMU’s first win over the Chippewas since White arrived in Kalamazoo. That effort earned him MAC West Division Offensive Player of the Week honors. The team ranks 13th in passing offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision, as teams keying on White fall prey to Chleb Ravenell and Robert Arnheim, who have combined for 43 catches and five touchdowns.

“There’s never a right way to cover us on defense,” White said. “Against us, there will be opportunities for other players if defenses key on one of us.”

White credits Cubit, who never wavered in his support as the player rehabbed his injuries. But mostly, White said his mother, Sharon Gall, has played the biggest role in his success. He considers her a best friend, calls her at least once a day and texts her more often.

“She tells me what I should be doing if I’m not doing it, like rehabbing or studying,” White said.

“It’s made him a strong person, enduring everything he has,” said Gall, a single parent who still lives in North Ridgeville. “It was challenging when he went through the first one. He’d never had an injury before when he played sports.

“But he pulled through it quickly. When it happened again, he was already through this, and he knew he could do it again”
Still to be accomplished, though, is that MAC title, which was No. 1 on his list when he filed an appeal to the NCAA asking for a sixth year of eligibility. Even that process was a bit nerve-racking: Former Purdue receiver Keith Smith was denied in his appeal just a week before White was granted his sixth year on March 4.

And since his injuries, White says he rarely looks too far into the future, so the NFL isn’t much on his mind. But his measurables — 6 feet, 215 pounds, 4.54 40-yard dash — compare favorably to some of the receivers rated highest by Scouts Inc., and Jennings’ success — as a 5-11, 198-pounder and a second-rounder from WMU — also will help. NFLDraftScout.com has White ranked 27th in the 2012 receiver class, and projects him as a late-round pick.

“They got him a sixth year, and he’s really good,” Central Michigan coach Dave Enos said. “We thought he was special last year. They use him very well, and find him ways to get him the ball. He’s a very talented young man.”

If the NFL doesn’t work out, White will continue his pursuit of a master’s degree in business administration with a specialty in organizational change. White earned his undergraduate degree in advertising this spring.

Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or hammond_joel@yahoo.com.