A tough year has become especially difficult for James White, who returned to action Monday night with a heavy heart.
White had been away from football since he lost his father, Tyrone, in a tragic car accident on Sept. 20 that also hospitalized his mother, Lisa. White rejoined the Patriots in the week leading to Monday night's contest with the Kansas City Chiefs.
He carried the ball three times, gaining 21 yards, and caught seven passes for 38 yards in the 26-10 loss to Kansas City, but little of what White discussed afterward had to do with the game. Understandably, White instead reflected on his father's influence on his life, and how he is already missed.
"I mean, he meant a whole lot," White said of his father. "He's one of the biggest reasons why I played football. Being a little kid, seeing my brother play, knowing that my dad played football, it kind of motivated me to go out there and play football. My dad, he was a coach for me growing up. Obviously, it's not always fun having your dad be your coach, but he pushed me, made me who I am today.
"I missed getting that text he would usually send me on Saturday nights before games, just a simple text he would send to get me prepared for the games. I kind of looked back at the last text I got Saturday before the Seahawks game to kind of reminisce on that. He meant everything for me."
The accident that claimed his father's life happened on the eve of New England's Week 2 game against Seattle, forcing White to return home amid the ongoing pandemic that has already added an unexpected stressor to his personal life. With his wife pregnant, White said Monday he wasn't exactly comfortable with traveling, but knew it was necessary because of the tragedy.
With the pain of the loss of his father still fresh, White found some solace in returning to his team as his mother's health improves.
"It was extremely tough for me. My mind still really can't wrap itself around everything. I'm still trying to process everything," he said. "What's gotten me through is my family, seeing my mom continue to recover, being around my wife and my son, and my teammates; them kind of uplifting me. It's a familylike atmosphere in the locker room. Being in the locker room kind of keeps my mind at ease."
Though the Patriots fell Monday, hopefully football can continue to be a place of refuge for White as he processes the pain of his loss and begins the healing process. He'll have the support of the entire NFL community behind him.