Missouri WR Darius White growing on and off the field
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Moms really do know what's best.
Just ask Missouri receiver Darius White, who in his fifth season playing college football received his first career start in the team's opener last Saturday.
"One thing my mom (Demetric) always tells me — if you dream about it, it's going to come," the senior said. "You've just got to be patient. Patience is the whole key about everything."
Listed at 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, White caught two passes for 83 yards against South Dakota State, both for touchdowns. After watching the 24th-ranked Tigers' top three receivers depart during the offseason, White is atop the depth chart.
But there was a time when White wasn't as patient.
Before joining Missouri in 2012, he played two seasons at Texas and caught a total of six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. As a freshman, White thought he would play every down. After all, that's what he did at Dunbar High School in Fort Worth as one of the nation's premier recruits.
"A lot of people think I left because of Mack Brown," White said. "No, Mack Brown's a great dude. I still talk to him to this day. I left Texas just being young, not having patience."
Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel tracked White through high school and his time at Texas, even relaying support for White's decision to stay close to home with the Longhorns. When the receiver decided to transfer, Steckel was one of the first people to call him.
A week later, White became a Tiger.
Steckel then mentored him as he played on the scout team for a year, taking a mandatory redshirt per NCAA transfer rules. White lined up against Missouri's first-string defense, learning to use his experience on the practice field as a means to improving his performance against real opponents.
"He gets to Missouri, and he's on the bottom of the list," receivers coach Pat Washington said. "He's got to start all over again. A person who has confidence in himself, and a little ego to go along with it, probably doesn't respond very well to listening to that."
White bought into it.
"Everybody wants things to happen right now," Steckel said. "And it was a work in progress. I think it was more frustration, and now it's more maturity. He understands, 'OK, I get this, I can correct this,' instead of just getting frustrated with himself."
Last season, White caught seven passes for 76 yards and a touchdown as a junior backup to Dorial Green-Beckham, Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington. Aside from a trip back to Texas in June after graduating with a bachelor's degree in general studies, White stayed at Missouri (1-0) through the summer, practicing routes and timing with quarterback Maty Mauk.
Sometimes that extra practice time away from coaches can be the difference between starting a game on the field or on the sideline, Washington said. Being the best player in high school doesn't account for much on a team of players with the same credentials.
Receiver Bud Sasser hopes White can replicate his first-week performance this Saturday at Toledo (1-0), which limited White to a single reception for no gain a year ago.
"Man, he had a huge smile on his face" last week, Sasser said. "There's nothing like seeing your teammates happy."