Zach Wilson is injured and Mike White is going to get his first career NFL start on Sunday against the Bengals. White spoke to the media on Thursday and here is your chance to get to know him a little better.
So, what are some of your emotions going into your first NFL start?
It’s exciting. It’s what you grow up dreaming of as a little kid. That aspect of it, there’s a lot of excitement to it. I’ve gone into this week and attacked this week as trying not to make it more than what it is. We’re going out there on Sunday and I’m going to try and help this football team win and do my job.
Do you go into it like having said that, kind of pressure free? Do you feel pressure, or do you approach it like you don’t have any on your shoulders?
Yeah. I think you can’t think about that. Not only a quarterback thing, but once you add more pressure to it, you start to mentally lock up and then do things that aren’t in your realm. So, I think personally, I’m trying not to think of anything of that nature. Just go out there, play my game, have fun with my guys. I’m starting an NFL game, so that’s pretty freaking cool.
How helpful has Zach (Wilson) been this week, just kind of sharing some advice?
Zach’s been awesome. Zach’s been locked in, he’s been in every meeting, he’s done a great job in staying engaged and being around the guys and still leading from a far. He’s there with whatever me or Josh (Johnson) needs, he tells me what he sees and things of that nature. I hinted too last week, we have a great dynamic in the QB room and he’s kept on adding to it.
When you went back and watched last game, were there things that you saw specifically that you could have done differently, want to do differently?
Well yeah, just like in any game. Any quarterback is going to have something that they want back and things that they thought they could have done differently. There were some good things and there were some things that we got corrected and there were some things that we can build upon. I think that’s what we did a great job of on Monday and then we turned the page and now we’re getting ready for Cincinnati.
What are some things that you’ve seen on film defensively that are some of the challenges that Cincinnati presents?
I think they’re a very talented football team, from top to bottom. I think they make you earn it on defense, they do what they do well, and they’ve been in this system for a couple of years now. They’ve all played together for a couple of years, so they play well together and they play hard. It will be a good test for us as a football team and I think if we go out there and we execute and execute the game plan, I think we’ll be in it.
With (Joe) Flacco coming in, do you kind of see this as your one chance to sort of prove yourself?
I think as a backup, whenever you get the chance to start, that’s always your chance to prove yourself. I don’t think Joe coming in changes anything like that, I think it’s, Joe was here last year, I have a great relationship with Joe, I’m excited to see him again and rekindle some stuff and then talk some crap to him about ping pong and things of that nature. But no, I don’t think Joe coming in changes anything. I told myself from the beginning of the week, I just want to go out there and do my job and help this team win.
(follow up) Have you talked with him since he got traded?
Yeah. I talked to him, I texted him when he got traded, I think was Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever it was. Yeah, we talked a little bit and we’ve been facetiming and seeing virtually in meetings and it’s been fun.
Do you have a favorite memory coming from your high school championship game?
My high school championship game, wow. One, winning was off the final snap, taking a knee and celebrating with the guys. But that’s funny you say that. We ran double slant to my friend Emmanuel Soto to take the lead. We were down like 17-0 and we hit it probably like eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, on the left side, probably around the seven, eight-yard line. So, that worked, and we finally took the lead. That was pretty fun.
(follow up) That pass set up the go-ahead touchdown?
That was the go-ahead touchdown.
(follow up) How many yards was it?
I think it was from like the six or seven-yard line.
(follow up) How much time left?
Probably like eight, seven or eight minutes left. We ran the clock out at the lend and they went on a desperation two-minute drive and we stopped them.
Mike, what can you learn from having a guy like Joe here, a veteran quarterback in the room, as a young quarterback, how does that help the room?
Well, Josh has been here, and Josh has taught us a lot. Josh has been in the system multiple times, multiple places and he’s seen a lot of football. He’s been around a lot so Josh has been awesome and I alluded to it on Sunday. He was awesome for me on the game and then Joe, as well. Joe’s seen a lot of football and won a lot of game, won a Super Bowl. Just when you get guys who have been around a lot, you try to pick their brain and then situations come up in practice, or on the film that they can tell you or like, “When I was in this situation vs. this defense or this look, this is what I did and this is what I liked about it, didn’t like about it,” and all things of that nature. So, any time you get a guy that’s been around for a long time, it’s beneficial.
Have you been getting a lot of texts, phone calls, whatever, from people in your past about what happened this week and what’s it been like?
Yeah, it’s been cool. I mean you get a lot of messages, obviously after the game I had a lot and then leading up to this week and then once it was announced that I was playing, I got a lot. It’s been cool, everyone’s been super supportive, and it’s been awesome.
When you were in high school, you were a pitcher and I mean in the baseball aspect of it, could you have imagined that you would not only not be pitching, but you’d be in the NFL and now a starting quarterback?
It’s crazy. I talked to all of my friends that are in the major league, like Luis Guillorme, the second baseman for the Mets. We played together a long time and we were talking the other day and it’s funny how growing up, I was all baseball and then somewhere in high school, our paths, I went football, everybody else kept baseball. When you put it like that, it’s crazy. I was talking to Josh Johnson the other day and I was telling him he might have been, he might be in the NFL longer than I’ve played football now, just starting in high school and things of that nature. It’s cool even when you look back on it and think of it in that aspect, it’s pretty funny.
(follow up) You made the right decision?
I’d like to think so, yeah.
When you were in college, when you transferred from USF to Western Kentucky, what went into that and how do you think that helped you get to this point in your career?
I played my first two years, true freshman, true sophomore year at USF and then we made a change in offense to kind of more of a zone-read, running quarterback-type style offense and that didn’t fit my skill set. So, I decided to transfer and that’s how I got to Western Kentucky and just being able to develop under Jeff Brohm, who played a number of years in the NFL and we ran NFL-type concepts and then I got to from a spread offense, high-tempo type of formations and things of nature, but I got to develop as a quarterback and I got a lot better and I was able to carry that on in the NFL and just keep getting better and better.
What skill sets or techniques from growing up, a picture of it would kind of help translate onto the football field?
I think obviously as a pitcher throwing the ball, so that helps and being able to change arm angles. When you got to maneuver a defensive end or an RPO, you’re trying to get around their guy. So, any type of arm angles I think is the real biggest aspect that I’ve been able to translate and just being a rotational athlete. That’s where your throwing comes from, your throwing power comes from as a quarterback is your ability to rotate and I got that from baseball.
Kind of going back to what Dennis said, you did that call from the Blue Jays and you decide, “I don’t want to maybe do baseball.” Did you ever think one day you’d be standing here at the podium?
Yeah, definitely at the back of my mind that was my ultimate goal. Any kid growing up playing athletics, your ultimate goal is to reach the professional level. It’s funny, playing through college, my whole goal in college was to just play and win. And then after my junior year we had some success and then agents were calling me asking if I was leaving early and then scouts were coming, that was never really in my forefront. I was just winning and winning, that’s all I really cared about and then the rest would take care of itself. Just looking back on it, it’s kind of cool to watch the whole process and my mindset going into it and where I am now, it’s pretty cool.
What’s the journey been like for you in the NFL? I mean, you’re drafted by the Cowboys and then you’re on this practice squad a couple years, now you’re starting, what’s that been like?
Any backup’s career there’s always going to be up’s and down’s, changing teams, offenses and things of that nature. After I got released by the Cowboys and then signed here to p-squad (practice squad) and then last year, up on active, p-squad, up. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I think, personally, I’m proud of how I handled it and persevered and kept continuing to work my tail off and get better and put myself into this situation.
What year did you start playing quarterback, how old were you?
In high school.
You never played before high school?