Stevens: Vincent White Grew Up Rich With The Gift Of Education
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  03/26/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

March 26, 2011

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Vincent White's love of football and his unwavering belief in education were once strengthened by a wake-up call that came long before the sun scratched its way across the eastern horizon and on to the city of Denver.

It was get up, catch a ride with grandma to the corner of 32nd boulevard, jump on a 6 a.m., Denver Metro, transfer to another bus in the downtown area, and finish up a few blocks from J.K. Mullen High.

The young White didn't have to make this long haul to Mullen High to play football. The 5-foot-8 dynamo was good enough to play anywhere he strapped on the pads. But, then, maybe he did have to go to Mullen.

That's what grandma and grandpa wanted.

"There was a firm push toward academics," said White, 49, New Mexico's first-year running backs' coach. "My grandparents stressed education. They saw it as a way to a better life for their grandkids. We always had to do our homework first thing when we got home."

The "we" is Vincent and his younger brother. Vincent was born to a 16-year-old mother. His brother came a year later. Times were tough in some ways, but there was lots of love and plenty to eat.

"I never knew my father much," he said. "We grew up poor, raised by my grandparents. It was one of those things where you never really think about being poor because that's just the way it was and we always had what we needed. I can look back now and say, `Yeah, we were poor.'

"But we were raised right. Very disciplined. Strict. Grades came first or we couldn't play sports, but if we had the grades, we could play whatever we wanted to."

White grew up concentrating on track, basketball and football - and education.

One of the best choices for education in the Denver area is Mullen High, a private school that comes with tuition. "To this day, I never knew who paid my tuition," said White. "But I owe that person a lot."

Mullen was built in the 1930s for orphan boys, who worked the dairy farm located on the plush Mullen grounds. It later grew into a college-prep school for boys and is now a co-ed college-prep school that stresses education and humanitarian principles. It is a school that attempts to build character as it builds minds.

They also play good football there and Mullen will be looking for an unprecedented fourth straight Class 5A title this fall. White was a Mullen star who led the school to its first state crown in 1978. He was good enough to get scholarship offers from across the country and narrowed his choices to Nebraska, Southern Methodist, Colorado, Arizona State and Stanford.

He entered Stanford along with a hotshot quarterback out of California named John Elway.

"Going to school at Mullen, I understood the value of college beyond football," said White. "I knew exactly what Stanford was about. Stanford is a little bit different."

White has his memories from Stanford. He had a 76-yard punt return to beat No. 1-ranked Washington during his senior year. He led D-I football in receptions in 1982 with 69 grabs. He was All-Pac 10 First Team and All-America Honorable Mention.

He also was one win away from a bowl game that year and an Elway-led drive handed the Cardinal the lead over Cal-Berkeley with four seconds to play in the final game of the season. A bowl game was a few ticks of the clock away.

The ensuing kickoff led to what is now called, "The Play." The Bears lateraled the ball five times - two of them controversial - and scored the winning TD plowing through the Stanford band. "That isn't a good memory," said White.

Elway and White were among several Stanford offensive players drafted. Elway went NFL. White went USFL, playing for the Denver Gold. When he tore a rotator cuff in his fourth season, he decided to move into coaching.

White has a rich history of football. He comes to UNM after four years at Southeast Missouri State, where he was an assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. He also has coached at Delaware State, St. Mary's College (head coach), Utah, Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Mansfield University, SMU, Maryland, Pacific, Tennessee-Martin and Oregon Tech.

White said he went into coaching because his love of the game. He also did it because it was a way to impact young men in the same positive way his life was impacted long ago at Mullen High, at Stanford.

"Coaching is about the kids and I think colleges are drifting away from that," said White. "There is too much money involved now.

"My job as a coach is to bring in players and help them become the best players they can be. But I won't be doing my job if any of my players leave without a degree."

White's grandparents have passed away. But when White talks about education, it's easy to cock an ear and hear a loving grandmother wakening up a young boy and pushing him toward a bus stop, toward his future.