Keion White has not forgotten where the journey began. As a high school senior in Garner, North Carolina, he received one FBS scholarship offer – from Old Dominion. It arrived so late in the process that White has said that to that point he was preparing to go into the military.
He graduated from high school in 2017. Six years, two schools and a position change later, the former Georgia Tech defensive end is being projected to be drafted in the first round.
“For me, I feel like at this point, I’m playing with house money,” White said Thursday after Tech’s Pro Day. “First round, second round, third round, I don’t care. Just to have the opportunity because I was so close to not playing college football is big for me. So wherever I get drafted, I’m not going to be one of those guys who’s disappointed because I fell or because I didn’t get drafted where everybody else thought I was.”
He went on to say that he was appreciative for the chance to play at the NFL and to see where his career leads him. It was a different perspective than many potential first-round picks share, as many are set on the status and prestige (among other benefits) of being a first-rounder. But his history, and his choice to remember it, shapes his viewpoint.
At Old Dominion, he began at tight end, then moved to defensive end after a promising start as a redshirt freshman in 2018. In the 2019 season, his career took off as he tied for 10th in FBS in tackles for loss with 19, tying the school record. He transferred to Tech after the 2020 season when Old Dominion did not hold its season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He missed most of the 2021 season because of an ankle injury. He finally demonstrated his ability at the power-conference level in 2022, totaling 54 tackles – 14 for loss and 7.5 for sacks. He earned All-ACC honors in his second full season at the position.
While a hamstring tweak suffered running his second 40-yard dash shut him down for the remainder of the day, he did more than enough in his first run, particularly given that he did position drills and some of the measurables testing at the scouting combine. Thursday, scouts had him between 4.65 and 4.75 seconds on their stopwatches. Among defensive tackles at the combine – a group more comparable in size with White than ends – only one prospect ran under 4.81.
White’s response to his time spoke again to a humble approach.
Asked if he expected to run that fast, White responded, “No, I surprised myself with that one.”
He credited his trainer, Lily Abdelmalek, the owner of DSA Training in Cobb County. White said that she hadn’t previously trained draft prospects for the combine or Pro Days, but Abdelmalek “took me in and was like, Yeah, I can work with you,” White said. “And she did a really good job training me up for the combine and everything like that.”
Comparing, again, his combine results to defensive tackles – he outweighed some of the defensive ends by 40 pounds – his 9-9 broad jump outdid every DT prospect and his 34-inch vertical was better than all but one. Only one defensive tackle had more than White’s 30 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.
The combination of size and explosiveness has captivated scouts and coaches, who have told him they could seen him playing anywhere from a “2-technique” defensive tackle (lining up over the guard) to outside linebacker. Feeling gratitude for his opportunity, White seeks to take care of it well.
“Just because I get drafted first round, there’s first-round guys who do five years and are no longer in the league,” he said. “So I just want to continue to act like I’m not a highly sought-after player and work and keep grinding and doing what got me here to this point, and then actually do even more, for sure.”
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