New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady all but cemented his legacy as one of the NFL’s all-time greats with his performance Sunday in Super Bowl LI, but an unlikely hero also emerged from the game.
Patriots running back James White, a fourth-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, had a breakthrough performance in New England’s 34-28 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons.
White, a former standout at the University of Wisconsin, caught a Super Bowl-record 14 passes for 110 yards and scored three touchdowns against Atlanta, including the game-winning 2-yard reception from Brady to help New England capture its second title in three years.
White, 25, received high praise from Brady but also had a relative in Montgomery County who was not at all surprised.
“That’s kind of what I expect out of him,” said Robert Pratt, 50, a cousin who lives in Silver Spring, “because he’s not an every-down back.”
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Although Pratt has been living in Maryland for nearly three decades, he said he followed White’s career during his high school days at Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas and later at Wisconsin.
“We had a lot of great athletes in the family,” said Pratt, an All-State defensive end at Captain Shreve High School in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Pratt went on to play in the defensive secondary at Grambling State University for legendary head coach Eddie Robinson.
“He didn’t only teach you football,” said Pratt. “He taught a lot of other things. He taught us a lot of things that made us successful.”
Back then the Tigers also boasted quarterback Mike Williams, the younger brother of former Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams who would later became the first African-American quarterback to earn a Super Bowl ring.
“Mike was a good quarterback,” said Pratt. “Mike could pass that ball.”
The Tigers also boasted future Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jake Reed.
Pratt recalled playing against the likes of Tennessee State, Jackson State, Alcorn State, Texas Southern and Alabama A&M among other schools.
“We always came in second place in the SWAC because Mississippi Valley State had Jerry Rice,” said Pratt.
At Louisiana Tech, Pratt played with future Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman Willie Roaf who was a consensus first-team All-American in college.
Before moving to Maryland to become a postal worker, Pratt spent a season playing professional football with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.
“It was good playing up there,” said Pratt. “It was a good experience.”