White needs impressive effort to earn contract

Originally Published: April 28, 2005
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Spurned through the seven rounds of the 2005 draft, and all but ignored in the free agent feeding frenzy that followed it, former Oklahoma quarterback and 2003 Heisman Trophy recipient Jason White will get an opportunity this weekend to demonstrate that he at least belongs in an NFL training camp.

White has been invited to attend the Kansas City Chiefs three-day rookie minicamp that begins on Friday. But there remains this caveat: The Chiefs have not signed White to a contract and he will need an impressive performance to elicit a formal offer from a club that already has five quarterbacks on its depth chart.

Jason White
Jason White will have to make it as an undrafted rookie with the Chiefs.

Under league rules, teams can bring in unsigned college players to their minicamps to audition and work with their other rookies.

"It's a chance and, all along, that's all that I've really asked for," White said. "I'm excited about it and, hopefully, I can get some people [with the Chiefs] excited enough about me to want to keep me around a while."

One of the most celebrated college quarterbacks in recent history, White captured the Heisman Trophy following a 2003 season in which he threw 40 touchdown passes. He also won the Davey O'Brien Award and Jim Thorpe Courage Award that season, and was selected as the Big 12 offensive player of the year.

In 2004, White tossed 35 scoring passes and won the Maxwell Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Davey O'Brien Award for a second consecutive season. He was also the repeat choice as Big 12 offensive player of the year.

Those accolades aside, White went undrafted, with some scouts privately citing a history of knee injuries and lack of arm strength. Twice during his college career White suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments, to his left knee in 2001 and right knee in 2002. In his last two seasons with the Sooners, however, White completed 533-of-841 passes for 7,051 yards, with 75 touchdown passes and only 19 interceptions.

In the days following the draft, agent James "Bus" Cook phoned all 32 NFL franchises at least twice each to try to generate interest.

"I think [the lack of interest] is a combination of a lot of things," Cook said. "But, still, it's hard to believe no one would give Jason a chance. Maybe the Chiefs will turn out to be smarter than everyone else, right?"

White faces an uphill battle. The Chiefs quarterback depth chart includes three veterans -- starter Trent Green and backups Todd Collins and Damon Huard -- along with youngsters Casey Clausen and James Kilian. A former Tulsa standout, Kilian was was drafted last weekend in the seventh round.

"We're excited that Jason has an opportunity to pursue his goals and know that he'll make the most of this opportunity," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said in a statement.

"He has proven time and again that he can succeed at the highest level. He earned this shot at professional football and I like the fact that Carl Peterson, Dick Vermeil and the Chiefs recognize that too. In getting to know him so well and in watching him go about his business here, there is nobody that I have been associated with during my career that I respect more or am more proud of than Jason White."

When Vermeil was asked on Sunday why no one had drafted White, he said simply that the NFL "didn't evaluate him as talented enough to play at this level."

"He's been successful, but there have been a lot of college quarterbacks who have been successful and won Heisman Trophies and everything else who didn't play in the NFL," Vermeil said at the time. "He's no less a person. He's still an outstanding young man."

But Peterson made it clear that he admired White.

"I'm not sure he can't play in the National Football League,'" said the Chiefs' GM, who said he met White presenting him an award. "He's an extraordinary young man. You can't count him out. He's as tough-minded as anybody and he's had some great stats."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.