May 5, 2014
Jawara White, left, with academic counselor Troy Smith
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Jawara White was feeling down the second time he hurt his neck, you know, the time the doctors told him he couldn't play football anymore.
"I thought about quitting everything. What was the point?" White wondered.
He thought about quitting in the spring of 2012, but Auburn wouldn't let him. The linebacker who had arrived in 2010 with much promise was shifted to medical scholarship, found a coaching staff that told him to stick with it and found academic advisors he names like you name running backs who went to work to lift his spirits. Everything worked. White walked across the stage at graduation Sunday with a major in Public Administration.
White was dressed for the part, complete with his 2010 national championship ring that came with other title rings.
"I've still got all three of them. Those are memories I'll never forget," White said.
White remembers, even to the day he showed up in to play college football.
"I reported June 22. It seems like yesterday," he said.
He was redshirted his first season after having surgery because doctors found fluid on his spinal cord. He made 23 tackles the next season. The next spring, playing for defensive coordinator Ted Roof and head coach Gene Chizik, he was hurt again.
"I talked to Coach Roof when I got hurt and he told me to finish my degree. Coach Chizik basically jumped down my throat and said I was going to finish school. 'I'm not going to hear from your mom over this.' So I had to get back with it and finish up," White said.
"It was very frustrating. The main thing I had to do was figure out how to use my time. I found there wasn't a lot to do. My time had been taken up with football," he said.
Neck surgery had already cost him the 2010 season. Then, he was hurt again.
"I was at practice and hit something wrong and it felt weird the rest of the day. That night, I had a relapse. It wasn't good," he said.
The next day, he saw team doctor Michael Goodlett and another doctor.
"They said leave football alone. Just enjoy school."
Everything had changed.
"It was two or three springs ago. The 2011 spring? 2012 spring. It's driven me crazy," White said. "From that point, it was frustrating. I was down. It doesn't help that (defensive back) Ryan White is my roommate. But he forces me to help him watch film sometime. Now, I enjoy watching him. He plays for me, basically. He's my brother."
Still, it wasn't easy not playing.
"It was all-around tough," White said. "You see the guys getting ready for football every day, and you're walking on campus, and you think about it. You have to see them. We're in study hall every day. You're in the same building. It hurt. It hurt a lot."
Still, his teammates kept him up. His apartment became video game central. Now, "I'm in the job market."
"I'm grown up now," he said. "I have to accept responsibilities."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Tweet: