The roller coaster of college football recruiting finally came to a close on National Signing Day, Feb. 5, for Daleville senior Jalen White as the record-setting running back signed with Georgia Southern University.
Despite shattering a number of state and school records – including setting the single-season AHSAA rushing record with 3,519 yards in 2019 – White didn’t pickup scholarship offers from Power Five schools.
White did receive visits from coaches from the SEC and went on visits to SEC schools like Florida and Tennessee but scholarship offers from those schools weren’t made. That apathy from major colleges placed a chip on White’s shoulder that helped to drive him further in his senior season, and he says that chip won’t be going anywhere as he enters college.
“I don’t think that chip will ever go away,” White said. “I’ll always feel like I have something to prove and I feel like the bigger schools looking over me is just going to help me bring my best game.”
White still had offers from colleges like Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Tulane, South Alabama and others. Instead, he’s heading more than 250 miles east to Statesboro, Ga. to play for the historic Georgia Southern Eagles.
“I felt like Georgia Southern was my best option,” White said of his decision. “When I went there the coaches made me feel welcome and the players put out a good vibe. They didn’t have to put up a façade to make me want to come there.”
Georgia Southern was an FCS powerhouse for decades, winning six FCS National Championships and 14 conference titles, before making the move up to the FBS level. In 2014, the Eagles joined the Sun Belt Conference, where they play Troy annually.
For decades Georgia Southern has been known for its deadly triple-option offensive attack and White has experience playing in multiple offensive schemes, including the triple option under former coaches Josh Parrish and Rob Armstrong. That familiarity with the offense is something that also appealed to White.
When White signed his letter-of-intent to Georgia Southern he was joined by his family, the entire DHS senior class, members of the Daleville Police Department and the Daleville Mayor’s Office. A number of his current and former coaches were also in attendance, and White said each and every one of them taught him something.
“My coaches have meant a lot to me and I think they all taught me something different,” White continued. “I think Coach Parrish taught me how to take your job serious and that it’s okay to want to be a perfectionist. Coach Armstrong taught me how to loosen up a little bit, because you know Coach Armstrong was a ‘wild man.’
“Coach (Trey) Woolf is the one that kind of taught me how to start to be a leader and taught me to lead by example. Coach Lett taught me to be a more vocal leader.”
While White was flanked by his mother, father and older brother – all people White said helped him reach that point – as he signed, his biggest form of motivation also looked on.
Just before his senior football season White’s daughter, Ava, was born and she immediately became his biggest motivation.
“Every game on my left wrist I wrote her name,” White said with a smile. “Some times I didn’t think I could keep going and I would take a knee and look down at her name. A lot of times it would be followed up with a touchdown.
“She’s all the motivation I’ve ever needed. She means everything to me; she’s my whole world. That’s my baby.”
With a chip on his shoulder and a daughter serving as even more motivation, White set records in his senior campaign along with winning numerous awards. Along with being named to The Sun’s Elite 11 team and winning the Elite 11 Offensive Player of the Year, he was named to the ASWA All-State team, Super All-State, Dothan Eagle Super 12, USA Today All-USA Team, Class 2A’s Back of the Year and was a finalist for Alabama’s Mr. Football Award. White’s not done yet, though.
“I want to do the same things in college that I did in high school and even more,” he said. “Keep working hard, start, make a name for myself, win awards and get to the NFL.”
Daleville coach Desmond Lett said that he was very proud of his star running back and that he believed every goal he has is very attainable.
“I’m just so proud of that kid,” Lett said. “He’s a hard-working kid and it couldn’t be happening to a better kid. The sky is the limit for him.
“As hard as he works, I feel like going to Georgia Southern he’ll have a chance to play immediately because there isn’t a kid (there) that is going to outwork him.”