BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — There is one thing that everyone wants to talk to James White about this week in the run-up to Super Bowl LII. And it’s the exact same thing White refuses to discuss.
“It’s pretty much in the past,” the Patriots running back said Tuesday of his life-altering, NFL history-changing, only-time-it-ever-happened performance in last year’s Super Bowl that included the only points ever scored in overtime of the game.
It was how it might have been to interview the Wright Brothers but with one stipulation to the conversation: No airplane talk!
White is so locked in on the present that he referred to this week and Sunday’s game as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” As if Super Bowl LI never even existed. As if the comeback against the Falcons was fictitious. He even shrugged without much interest when asked about the whereabouts of the football he carried into the end zone in Houston for the game-winning touchdown.
“No,” he said with a polite but firm chuckle when asked if he’d reconsider his stance and join in the collective reminiscence. “Doesn’t matter to me anymore.”
It mattered a lot a year ago when the second-year running back caught 14 passes for 110 yards, ran for 29 yards on six carries, and scored three total touchdowns. Tom Brady won the MVP of the game, but it was White who became the annual Patriot to rise from obscurity to the spotlight on the sport’s biggest stage.
The 2017 season paled in comparison to that one game for White. He scored just three touchdowns this season after finding the end zone three times one day last February. He averaged 4.0 catches per game in his 14 appearances in the regular season and had more than five carries just once (10 in the opener).
Such is life on the Patriots.
“We all have our roles on the team,” he said. “One week you may play 10 snaps, the next week you may play 60 snaps. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to put my best foot forward and when the opportunity presents itself I want to do whatever I can to help my team win.”
No one knows what White’s impact on this Super Bowl will be. The Patriots are facing a very strong Eagles defensive front, tough to run against, so short passes to a running back such as White could help neutralize that aspect of the game. Or maybe the Patriots will scheme another way to score points against the Eagles.
White, for his part, seems to believe that he could be a big player in this game. When asked if last year’s Super Bowl was the biggest game of his life, he paused before answering.
“At that point, yeah,” he finally conceded.
At this point, not so much.