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Jets QB Mike White exudes confidence, and it's contagious

Mike White #5 of the New York Jets

Mike White #5 of the New York Jets looks on during warm ups at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts on November 04, 2021 in Indianapolis. Credit: Getty Images/Michael Hickey

Mike White hadn’t taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game until three weeks ago. But he observed plenty in his three-plus seasons in the league, and it prepared him for his remarkable meteoric rise from unknown practice team player to the Jets’ starting quarterback.

White spent his rookie year in 2018 watching Dak Prescott and working with then-Cowboys quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore. White learned about the importance of having good relationships with your teammates, understanding all of the intricacies of a system to be able to put players in the right places and being willing to adapt to different situations.

Those experiences and his last two years with the Jets have been time well spent for White. He always believed he could be a starting quarterback in the NFL and he’s proving it now.

"Executing an offense and playing quarterback in this league, I think I can prove that to other teams and to this team as well, and mainly to my teammates," he said. "I can help win and help guys succeed and just help move an offense down the field."

White has shown that in two starts since Zach Wilson sprained his right knee in New England in Week 7. Wilson still is not 100%, but even if he was, White likely still would be starting Sunday’s home game against the Bills.

He has earned it with his play and ability to lead the team and move the offense better than Wilson did in his first six starts. Coach Robert Saleh has opened the door for White remaining the Jets’ starting quarterback if he continues to play well, especially against the Bills’ top-ranked defense.

"I operate on a week-to-week basis," White said. "This week, I’m the quarterback for the team, so my job is to be prepared and go out there and help execute the offense. Next week, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Whatever job the team gives me, that’s what I’ll do to the best of my ability."

The last time White was inside MetLife Stadium, the fans chanted "Mike White! Mike White!" at the end of his incredible performance. He threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Cincinnati in his first NFL start.

White has captured the respect and trust of his teammates and a fan base that desperately wants to see this unlikely Cinderella story continue.

In his last five quarters of action, White has thrown for more than 500 yards and four touchdowns, matching Wilson’s TD total for the season. The forearm injury White suffered in the first quarter of last week’s loss in Indianapolis isn’t an issue anymore.

White said his teammates chant his name whenever he walks in the locker room now. People he sees when he’s out are talking to him, too, because they recognize him. He said he hopes the fans chant his name again Sunday because it means the offense is playing well.

The 26-year-old White doesn’t appear to be overwhelmed by this newfound celebrity and fame.

Everyone associated with the Jets talks about how confident and poised he is. That confidence never wavered even after being cut by the Cowboys in 2019 and multiple times by the Jets. He spent most weeks on the practice team, but he continued to work and prepare as if he were the starter.

"It’s all about mental toughness and sticking to it and having confidence in yourself," he said. "There’s definitely been some trying times where you’re kind of on the lows and you got to pick yourself up and [say], ‘So what, now what?’ No one feels sorry for you. You just got to keep pushing."

White never doubted himself and his ability. The former fifth-round pick, who played at South Florida and Western Kentucky said, "If you ask me, I should have been a first overall pick." He exudes that type of confidence and his teammates gravitate toward that.

"I don’t even have to be in the huddle, you can see the command that he has," offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. "You can tell he’s been in the league for four years. All the different experiences that he’s dealt with off the field not playing and watching these guys. He’s got great command. The guys trust him. They believe in him. I think you can feel it with the other guys around him."

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said there have been times when White ran the scout team that he "was better" than the quarterback they faced on game day.

"Mike has that moxie, that confidence, that swag that’s just uncoachable," Ulbrich said. "He just has it. We’ve seen it in the practice field, we saw it, obviously in the preseason, now we’ve seen it in the regular season. It’s translated to Sundays.

"I don’t think these last couple of games have been a fluke. I don’t think that that was just by happenstance. I think that he’s a skilled player that’s got some special qualities to him. And it’ll be exciting to see what he can become the more opportunities that he gets."

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