FOXBOROUGH — A full house of Patriots attended the retirement ceremony for running back James White Tuesday evening at Gillette Stadium, a testament to his importance in the locker room over the last eight seasons.
White’s family, including his mother Lisa, wife Diana, and two young children, sat in the front row at the Putnam Club, while former teammates and coaches filled the other side of the room. At least two dozen players watched the 30-minute presentation, which featured remarks from White, owner Robert Kraft, and coach Bill Belichick.
The running back room led the way, with Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery, J.J. Taylor, Kevin Harris, Pierre Strong, coach Vinnie Sunseri, and former coach Ivan Fears all in attendance. Among the others in the audience were quarterbacks Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer; longtime captains Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, and David Andrews; wide receiver Jakobi Meyers; tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry; offensive linemen Trent Brown and James Ferentz; long snapper Joe Cardona; kicker Nick Folk; linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Ronnie Perkins; and defensive linemen Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise.
Assistant coaches Matt Patricia, Jerod Mayo, Troy Brown, DeMarcus Covington, Brian Belichick, Nick Caley, and Cam Achord also stopped by.
The strong showing is just the latest example of the respect and support the Patriots have for White, who announced his retirement via social media last Thursday. Players and coaches have since shared nothing but overwhelmingly positive memories about the three-time Super Bowl champion.
Patricia called White the “ultimate Patriot.” Sunseri said there aren’t enough compliments to describe him. Harris dubbed him “a once-in-a-lifetime player, once-in-a-lifetime teammate.”
That trend continued Tuesday, as Kraft and Belichick once again spoke glowingly of White’s contributions to the team on and off the field. Belichick’s speech sparked some laughter when he recalled his first impressions of White at the scouting combine in 2014.
“Those numbers weren’t too impressive,” Belichick said with a smile. “You weren’t big. You weren’t fast. You didn’t jump high, etc. But what those numbers don’t measure is intelligence, toughness, heart, teammate, dependability, and longevity. And that overrode all of what the other ones were.”
The Patriots ended up drafting White in the fourth round that year. He didn’t play much as a rookie, but he went on to earn an important role in the offense, establishing himself as one of the NFL’s best pass-catching backs. Belichick praised White’s hands, quickness, and instincts, adding that he always played his best football in the most important moments.
In a two-minute video, the Patriots captured those highlights, including all of White’s scores in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons, the game he considers his favorite football memory. With the Patriots trailing, 28-3, in the second half, White scored three touchdowns and a 2-point conversion to help complete the historic comeback for a 34-28 win.
“We had a 99.6 percent chance to lose, 0.04 percent to win,” Kraft said. “It’s the greatest message: Never to give up, no matter how the odds are. Think about it, we had a 0.04 chance to win and we won. It was a great team effort, but a lot of it was the effort of [White].”
White revealed Tuesday he thought he still had a “few good years left” in him, but his body told him otherwise. He came to the realization a couple of weeks before training camp that he probably would not be able to play any longer, as he hit a plateau while rehabbing from the season-ending hip subluxation he suffered in Week 3 last season.
“Do I think I could have gone out there and played? Probably,” White said. “But I don’t know how good I would have looked. I didn’t want to put myself and I didn’t want to put my team in the position, for them to be expecting a certain type of player or a certain type of guy they’re used to seeing. For me to go out there and not to be that guy, that’d be hard for me and I know that’d be hard for them to see.”
Retirement was ultimately the best decision for White him and his family, he said.
As for what’s next?
White said he has interest in coaching but will likely take some time to relax with his family first. He also expressed interest in pursuing a job in TV or radio, and noted he has interest in sneaker design, as well. His nickname is “Sweet Feet,” after all.
For now, though, White said he’ll be a full-time dad while keeping in touch with current players and occasionally stopping by. His presence will certainly be welcomed.
“We’ll miss you, but we’ll never forget your contributions or the standard you set for us,” Belichick said.