When New England Patriots linebacker Chris White takes the field Sunday for the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., some of his biggest fans will be watching back in Vancleave.
In that group will be his old high school football coach, Jim Bloomfield.
White started his high school career as a sophomore nose tackle for Boomfield at Vancleave High.
“Chris was great,” Bloomfield said. “He was just a big ole country boy who worked hard in the weight room. He loved to hit.”
At 6-foot-3, 238 pounds, White has spent the last four years as a special teams contributor in the NFL.
He runs well for his size, lives for the collision and has a great work ethic. All those attributes have allowed him to stick around the NFL for the last five years.
White has played in 13 games this season, registering seven tackles on special teams. With Patriots linebackers like Southern Miss product Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower having Pro Bowl caliber seasons, it’s been difficult for White to see time on defense.
In Bloomfield’s 15 years as head coach at Vancleave, White is the first player of his to reach the NFL.
White attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he was part of a national title team in 2007 as a freshman and earned first-team All-American as a sophomore.
He signed with Mississippi State and played in all 25 games during his time there, registering 185 career tackles with 6.5 sacks from 2008-09.
“I could see his body continuing to grow,” Bloomfield said. “He had the height and frame at 6-foot-3 in high school. He gained some weight at MSU and he was at 245, 250 and could run. He always had good speed.”
White was drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. After an injury prevented him from touching the field in his first year,
He was traded to the Detroit Lions before the 2013 season only to be cut shortly after. That allowed the New England Patriots to pick up White off waivers to give him three different teams in just eight days.
With the Patriots, White has become a mainstay on special teams.
Bloomfield remembers well when White was just getting started. His brother, Carl, was already a standout receiver for the Bulldogs.
It didn’t take long for White to make a name for himself.
“We played him on defense at nose his sophomore year and then we played him at fullback and linebacker his junior and senior year,” Bloomfield said. “He was always a real good worker in the weight room. He played basketball and baseball. He was multi-sport athlete, but he gave up all that to train. He knew he was going to a Division I school or Gulf Coast.”
White lives on the East Coast now, but he still returns to Vancleave High School in the offseason and uses the team’s weight room.
His presence at the fieldhouse is always welcomed.
“He’ll come in and we’ll introduce him to the kids,” Bloomfield said. “They get pumped up and excited. He talks about listening to coaches and working hard. He’s very encouraging to our players.”
On Sunday, Bloomfield will be watching the Super Bowl from his living room.
“We’ll definitely be pulling for the Patriots because of Chris,” Bloomfield said. “Normally, I’m not a Patriots fan, but I’ve been pulling for them ever since he started playing for them. I’m really proud of of Chris. He’s very humble. He hasn’t forgotten where he’s from.
Mississippians in Super Bowl
Position: Running back
Mississippi ties: Played at East Miss. Comm. College.
2015 season: Rushed for 547 yards and five touchdowns, splitting the season between Pittsburgh and New England.
Position: Running back
Mississippi ties: Ole Miss product.
2015 season: Rushed for 89 yards and one TD in limited action.
Position: Defensive back
Mississippi ties: Vicksburg native.
2015 season: Totaled 15 tackles in 11 games as a backup.
Mississippi ties: McCall Creek native and Southern Miss product.
2015 season: Started 15 games, gathering a team-high 116 tackles with four sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles.
Mississippi ties: Madison Central High School product.
2015 season: Made 35 of 37 field goals for the second best accuracy by a kicker this season.
Mississippi ties: D’Iberville native.
2015 season: Caught nine passes for 102 years in his rookie season.
Mississippi ties: Played at Vancleave, Miss. Gulf Coast CC and Miss. State.
2015 season: Made seven tackles on special teams in 13 games played.
Mississippi ties: Olive Branch native and played at Mississippi State.
2015 season: In 16 starts, Wright has a team-leading 107 tackles and two sacks.
Also: Linebacker Deontae Skinner of Mississippi State is on the Patriots’ practice roster and Stevan Ridley of Natchez is on the Patriots’ reserved/injured list.