MORGANTOWN, W.V. – West Virginia's Pat White combined to run and pass for more than 10,000 yards in college, with his passing yardage totals not significantly greater than the real estate he traversed with his fleet feet. While it's the arm people seem to be more interested in, his feet might be his most effective means of impact in the NFL.
"Pat White is a quarterback," an NFL executive said Thursday following White's pro day in the indoor football facility at West Virginia University.
So is Seattle's Seneca Wallace, a player whose style and stature resembles that of White. The Seahawks' backup to starter Matt Hasselbeck has carved out a nice niche as the just-in-case starter/capable backup after a solid career at Iowa State, making magic happen via the pass, running the ball and through his competitiveness.
Is White headed for the same fate? It's a question that's unnerving the consciousness of so many NFL talent evaluators. White was so good in college and such a dynamic talent, but his size -– roughly 6-foot-1, 200 pounds –- and development in the non-NFL-like spread offense makes projecting his impact in the league more than difficult.
It's not even those obvious traits that are making things so difficult, though.
"When you look at a guy like Pat White you think of a playmaker who makes plays with his arm and his feet," Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said. "He's a tremendous competitor. Look at a guy like Hines Ward when he came out of Georgia. He did a lot of different things. Some people say he's like Antwaan Randle El. Some people say Seneca Wallace.
"I see him as a tremendous playmaker. He does have the opportunity to come in the league and be a quarterback. But the more you can do the more value you have. If he's open-minded to consider the receiver position or play in the ‘Wildcat' formation, a lot of people will like that. He can do so many things."
In other words, White is too good to overlook, too good not to find a way to get on the field, if he's on your roster. But where do you put him?
Representatives from 25 NFL teams attended West Virginia's pro day Thursday and White was the star attraction. He said he would run pass routes and do wide receiver drills upon request. There were no requests. Though no one said they were told directly, one scout said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart quietly spread the word that White wasn't going to go through wide receiver drills.
After he threw roughly 45 passes in a structured short/mid-range/deep-ball session, a good chunk of those who came to see him left.
White was accurate enough and showed a good enough arm while throwing to a hodgepodge group of receivers –- one of whom was a defensive back –- to further validate strong Senior Bowl and combine showings. His confidence, yet humble demeanor, make him even more appealing.
"I had to come out and perform and I think I did that," White said. "The fact that I didn't get requested to run wide receiver routes meant a lot to me."
White wants to play quarterback. It's what and who he is. A lot of NFL teams need quarterbacks too, especially guys who can help diversify an offense with his ability to run and throw on the move. A lot of teams need wide receivers and kick returners also. They need multi-threat players that can make defenses take note when he comes onto the field in certain alignments.
"People want to utilize my skills, I guess," White said. "If I have to run pass routes and catch the ball, so be it."
White is not refusing to switch positions. He just doesn't want people to forget that he is a quarterback. If he has to play another position besides quarterback he would. But he hasn't in the past, which adds to the question pile. He's thrown the passes, not caught them.
How will he react to a defender putting his hands on him when he tries to release off the line of scrimmage from the slot? How will he take a hit across the middle? Can he catch a kickoff with 10 heat-seeking headhunters with a 45-yard head start bearing down on him?
Hard to tell.
Teams will get to see more of White during private workouts. They can put him through non-quarterback tests to see how well he fares. It could be that he doesn't respond well and he's viewed only as a quarterback. He also could shine and do some things maybe he didn't even know he could do, which could further enhance his appeal.
Following White's workout, the talent evaluators pretty much universally agreed that he is too much of an athlete not to play in the NFL. He's also too talented to wait too long to select in the draft. He's not expected to be chosen in the first round but he might not last much longer than that.
For a guy who was such a sure thing in college, White might be the most confounding prospect heading into the draft.