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This Profile of James White and His Parents Makes His Father's Death All the More Heartbreaking

As I'm writing this, not a lot is known about the car crash that killed James White's father, Miami-Dade Police Captain Tyrone White and left his mother Lisa in critical condition. Just that two vehicles were involved. One car was flipped over and the other was in flames. And she and another person had to be airlifted to the hospital. 

So all we've got is a tragic accident and the outpouring of sympathy you'd expect from teammates and former teammates that you'd expect given how universally popular and respected White is. 

It was especially gratifying to hear Russell Wilson talk about it in his postgame interview last night.

What I was not aware of because it sort of fell through the cracks of the news cycle back in January 2019 was this profile of Captain White done by Ian O'Connor of ESPN. Yes, this Ian O'Connor:

… but still. Old takes and all that. 

It's an amazing article that the site just reposted and it's well worth a read.

But I'll try to it some justice by hitting some of the major points:

Source - White was the perfect Bill Belichick player years before he ever shook Belichick's hand. "The Patriot Way," he said, "is a way I've been my entire life."

White is an invaluable member of a New England Patriots team that launches its bid for a sixth Super Bowl title Sunday against the Chargers, and his story begins with his 57-year-old father, who was a college football player-turned-aspiring sportswriter at Florida A&M. Tyrone White had been the sports editor of the university's newspaper, The Famuan, and was searching for full-time writing or public-relations work when, while he was walking in a mall one day, a police officer handed him a job application. White started as a cop with the Miami-Dade force in 1984, and what he would see working the streets shaped how he and his wife, Lisa, a probation specialist, would raise their two boys, Tyrone Jr. and James. …

Before James was born, his father was conducting a robbery investigation when he was fired upon by a group of suspects. One suspect who was arrested turned out to be a high school football star and the brother of Tyrone Sr.'s former classmate.

"First and foremost, because of the environment some of these kids were raised in," Tyrone Sr. said, "they felt their opportunities were limited and they made mistakes in terms of committing robberies and homicides. You saw the talent that was wasted. I made it my practice and my habit of ensuring that wasn't going to happen to my boys, or to the individuals that I coached." …

Tyrone Sr. was a tough-love patriarch at the Whites' Fort Lauderdale home, with the emphasis on love. James had a teammate at powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High named Giovani Bernard. … Bernard lost his mother to cancer when he was young, and when his father, a Haitian immigrant, fell on hard economic times, Tyrone Sr. and Lisa welcomed the teenager into their home for his final year and a half of high school.

Tyrone Sr. would sit with Bernard, now a running back with the Cincinnati Bengals, when college coaches made recruiting visits to the Whites' home, and then move over to an adjacent room to sit with the less-coveted James for his recruiting visits. "He was a father to me," recalled Bernard. "It was awesome to have somebody there for me. He was a guy who taught you about discipline, about being on time for meetings, keeping your word, being a dependable person, doing the things that take you far in life. …If you think about a law enforcement father, that's Mr. White. When I stayed there, I was petrified of making a mistake because I never wanted to disappoint him." …

On May 10, 2014, James White and family members were watching the fourth round of the draft … when the Patriots called with news of their decision, Tyrone Sr. thought about the no-nonsense, fundamentals-first programs James played in at St. Thomas Aquinas and Wisconsin. He thought it was a blessing that James was hired by the ultimate NFL meritocracy, an organization built around a selfless ethos. …

[At Super Bowl LI] White caught 14 passes on 16 targets for 110 yards against the Falcons, and scored 20 points in the second half and overtime, punctuated by his winning touchdown run. After taking a pitch from Brady to the right side, White defied all the bygone recruiters and scouts who didn't believe he was big enough or strong enough to do precisely what he did -- plow through contact and two Atlanta defenders at the 2-yard line and get the ball into the end zone. …

In the NRG Stadium stands, his father recalled the faces of Falcons fans tightening with concern as his son shredded their defense while New England erased its 28-3 deficit. The Whites were sitting in the corner where James scored the first overtime points in Super Bowl history. …

Brady was named the Super Bowl MVP, not White, and the running back brushed off that hit like it was nothing, too. "Everyone," Bernard said, "knows that was James' award to win." Including Brady, who said as much afterward. …

White isn't the most vocal leader, yet there's a competitive ferocity behind that aw-shucks reaction to both honors and slights that can be traced to a police captain who fought for his career after he was demoted from the rank of major and then fired in 2013. The Miami Herald reported Tyrone White was fired for depositing nearly $23,000 in payments from what was then known as Sun Life Stadium into an account supporting his charity football team that competed against other police departments and played in the Police Olympics. The checks were made out to White, who said he had solicited a donation from the stadium to defray team costs; police officials said the checks were erroneously made out to White and should have been sent to the department for security provided at Miami Dolphins games.

Tyrone Sr. sued the county for wrongful termination and won back his job in 2015. On his victory over his own department, Tyrone Sr. explained, "You have to stand up for what is right, for your principles. Sometimes people feel if you're not as open or boisterous, they take that as a sign of weakness. … People sometimes take advantage of you, and you have to stand up for what you believe in."

The Whites sound like exactly the kinds of people you want to have in your city, in your neighborhood, raising kids, coaching your kids, running your local police department and working in your court system. The national focus has been and will continue to be on bad cops. And that is largely justified and necessary. It's vital that the system that hires and trains them be as good as humanly possible. It's just important to recognize the millions of law enforcement officers like Captain and Mrs. White who on the job and when they're off duty are helping make communities better, mentoring kids, volunteering their time and their money setting good examples for the rest of us to follow. I have no doubt there are dozens of people like Giovanni Bernard who benefited from knowing this family. And James White is a reflection of them. 

It's a pure good that they got to see their son make one of the most memorable plays in the history of football. It's just a damned shame he didn't get the MVP trophy he deserved. But from the sound of things, they were the Most Valuable Parents two sons could have.