NFL

Falcons' White changes to become star

Get a taste of Pam Oliver's interview with Atlanta's Roddy White.
Get a taste of Pam Oliver's interview with Atlanta's Roddy White.
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Pam Oliver

Since joining the NFL on FOX team in 1995, Pam Oliver has established herself as one of the premier sports reporters on network television. She contributes feature stories and sideline reports for "FOX NFL Sunday" and reports from the NFL on FOX's top game.

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ALL ACCESS: A lot of networks do TV interviews, but have you ever wanted to know the juicy details that never make air? You can tell a lot about who people really are when the cameras aren’t rolling. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look of the interview with Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White.

I have never in my 20-year-plus television career heard anyone speak so candidly and honestly about his days as a complete knucklehead than Falcons wide receiver Roddy White. He has been rehabilitated, of course, and the light came on just in the nick of time. I love a good story of redemption and overcoming one’s stumbles, and this six-year pro fits both to a T.

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Before that, White was headed to the NFL’s graveyard of blown opportunities and a tombstone that would have read: Wasted Talent. RIP.

He partied hard in the ATL’s notorious club scene, dieted poorly on those yummy fries from the land of Golden Arches and was an also-ran at the wideout position, dropping too many balls, getting lustily booed at home.

White admits to having an attitude of, “Yeah, I’ll get around to living up to my draft status — next year. Eventually I’ll work at this thing, study film and stop failing asleep in special teams meetings and getting kicked out of said meetings.”

But until then, White was having the best time on his path straight out the door.

He snapped out of it by his third season in 2007 and made consecutive Pro Bowls in ’08 and ’09 as he set about redeeming himself to the franchise that drafted him 27th overall in 2005.

“I always said I have time. Just give me time to grow, I’ll grow into it. It didn’t come,” White told me after coming to the interview session dressed in a Red Sox T-shirt.

“You’re wearing that?” I said. I’d asked the Falcons ahead of time to please have him wear anything other than that tired-looking practice garb. I wanted him to look nice for his first national feature story and I was thinking a nice collared shirt with an argyle vest and ...

White wants to get paid. He swapped the Red Sox shirt for a Reebok tee. Cha-ching.

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Back to the subject at hand, it has come now as White is the NFL’s top receiver and a lock to make his third consecutive Pro Bowl, barring the unforeseen.

He has one particular goal written down in a notebook — he wants to join some pretty elite company and catch 100 balls in a season. With 54 receptions through seven games, White can very well check that one off the list at this rate.

In last week’s win against the Bengals, quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 299 yards, with 201 of those going to White. The child is ballin’.

“I’m so proud of Roddy,” fellow wideout Brian Finneran said.

Finneran once loathed White as a player. White’s lackadaisical approach to a job Finneran himself had to scratch and claw to attain drove him crazy. White used to half-joke to Finneran about how his draft position left him immune to facing any consequences for his nonexistent work ethic.

“I tried to do my best to get that out of his system, and it took a couple of years. He’s full force, doing all the little things that some of us thought he’d never get done,” said Finneran, a 10-year veteran.

Let’s not kid ourselves. White is now six seasons into his career (remember he took two years off to play around) and he still has his moments, just not the cringe-worthy kind. He works his butt off in practice, but he still sometimes gets bored with extended work like with OTA’s and training camp, according to his position coach, Terry Robiskie.

White spent the entire offseason in Atlanta, something Ryan had tried and failed to convince one of his top targets to do for the benefits of timing and rhythm.

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“He needs that structure. And when he’s here and inside that structure, he works as hard as anybody else,” Ryan said. “It was good for him and very mature of him to realize that and understand that when he’s here, it’s the best place to get him prepared for the season.”

We at FOX Sports are always talking about focusing on a new generation of NFL stars, and White, while already a quietly successful pro, is blazing toward that status with a fantastic season thus far.

YouTube him, or better yet, go to the Falcons website to check out Week 7’s highlight clips of White’s 201-yard day against the Bengals en route to overshadowing Cincinnati’s two blabbermouth wide receivers.

There, White is listed among the site’s most popular subjects, right along with the Falcons’ “Cheerleaders in Cancun” for a swimsuit photo shoot.

Roddy White has graduated with honors from knucklehead to a knockout wide receiver through a lot of hard work and concentrated focus. White’s career is alive and well. He just needed some time.

For Pam’s complete interview with Roddy White, watch the FOX NFL Sunday pregame show, America’s No. 1 pregame show, at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT.

Tagged: Falcons, Brian Finneran, Roddy White, Matt Ryan

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