Like any bond between a father and a son, the bond between Cody White and Sheldon White is a special one, but it is also a unique one as the two have bonded through the game of football at a very high level, an opportunity that very few have the opportunity to do.
Sheldon, a former NFL defensive back for six years and a former front office executive for the Detroit Lions, is currently the Executive Director of Player Personnel and Recruiting for Michigan State. Cody is entering his sophomore season as a wide receiver at #5 Michigan State.
For Sheldon, despite being in a demanding profession for the majority of his life, being a father is something that has always come first for him and has prioritized spending time with his children.
“Part of it came because my father became terminally ill at 42 and he passed away at 49, so these experiences that he’s having right now, I was not able to have as well,” he said. “I just want to make sure that every day is a bonus, I’m 53 right now so every day I have right now is a bonus. I wanted to make sure that I spent the quality time that I have with Cody in every way and with all of my other kids as well.”
Cody said that being able to have his father be so involved in his life throughout his time growing up is something that’s obviously special to him and understands that it’s something that not everyone is able to enjoy.
“It’s just a blessing for me to be in this position, having him come to all of my games, he’s never missed a football game that I’ve taken part in,” he said. “Most kids don’t get that in America and it’s just been a blessing for me.”
As Cody has continued to develop throughout his football career, from being a top high school football recruit to having an impressive freshman season at Michigan State, he has had the luxury of leaning on his father for advice in a number of different ways.
Sheldon said that one of the most important lessons he has taught Cody and continues to teach is the need to put full effort into the game of football, while also understanding and preparing for life after football.
“Just that the career he’s in is a short-term and short-lived career,” he said. “Before you know it, you’re old like us and you’re walking around and it’s over. Just love every moment of it while you’re in it, give 100-percent effort. In football, a game is only three hours of your life, so it’s really not that much to ask to give 100-percent for three hours in a game or however long you’re training. Make sure that when it’s all said and done, you feel good about your experience, feel good about your effort and what you’ve done. Positive, negative, everything about the game, you want to walk away from it and say I did as good as I can do and I achieved as much as my body allowed me to achieve and now it’s time to move onto the next step of your life.”
In many cases, parents of promising young athletes can, at times, become far too involved in their child’s sport, but that wasn’t the case for Sheldon, even though he was a standout player and is a highly regarded talent evaluator.
Cody said that as he grew up, his dad taught him the ins and outs of the game of football, but when he continued to move up through different levels of football, Sheldon stepped aside and let his high school and now his college coaches handle the day-to-day coaching and development, something that Cody is grateful for.
“When I was really young, he taught me the basics of everything, just got me going,” he said. “When he put me on to the coaches, he told me to listen to anything the coaches say, I’m going to step back. It made it really easy to focus in on what the coaches were trying to teach me and just do it their way and their way was probably the right way and it got me to where I am today.”
In his freshman season, Cody 35 catches for 490 yards and four touchdowns on his way to being named to the Big Ten Network All-Freshman team.
From the perspective of a father, Sheldon said that he’s not surprised by the success Cody has had so far in college and also reminded his son to stay humble on a regular basis.
“I’m not surprised just because of who he is as a person, he’s always handled it very well,” he said. “I used to always tell him when he was younger that hey, you’re just first team all-neighborhood. There’s another neighborhood with another kid, so that really starts to hit home when you get to the higher levels.”
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