“The only explanation I got,” White told me today, “was that they wanted to go in a different direction with the receivers.”
Coach Rod Broadway’s Tigers are coming off a disappointing 7-4 campaign. GSU failed to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Western Division title for the first time in Broadway’s three-year tenure.
He did not confirm whether his receivers coach had been let go.
“We’re in the process of doing some things,” Broadway told me. “I’m not ready to comment right now. But we’re evaluating everybody — including myself. We’ve got to get our problems fixed.”
It’s been two seasons since an individual Grambling player could boast 50 catches. The team’s top receivers, Nick Lewis in 2008 and then Kiare Thompson in 2009, have posted the lowest total of yards since Corey Caesar’s 539 yards in 1997.
White said he had trouble transitioning with the remade staff after Broadway’s arrival.
“You just have a feeling like something is not right,” he said. ” I just didn’t fit in. Sometimes, I felt like an outsider.”
At least one current player threatened to quit over the veteran coach’s ouster, but White reportedly convinced him to remain with the squad.
A Richwood native, White won both football and basketball state titles in high school before twice being named all-conference (1973, ’75) as a wingback for Grambling coaching legend Eddie Robinson. His best season at GSU was his last, when White was named the conference’s co-offensive player of the year. He would eventually pull down 37 passes for 802 yards and 17 touchdowns from a young Doug Williams — who then made White one of his first hires when he succeeded Robinson as Grambling’s head coach in 1998.
After college, White went on to become an integral part of a Vikings team that reached the Super Bowl after the 1976 season, the 1977 NFC championship and then the divisional playoff round both a year later and in 1982. The former second-round draft pick earned rookie of the year honors in 1976, and three All-Pro selections over 11 seasons with the Vikings. He set team records for receiving yards, touchdowns and yards in a game for a rookie that stood until Randy Moss broke through in 1998.
White served as Grambling’s receivers coach from 1998-2003, and from 2007-09. He was offensive coordinator for Melvin Spears between 2004-06 after Williams left for an NFL job, and held together Grambling’s 2007 recruiting class as interim when Spears departed.
Over that span, Grambling won six Western Division titles and five SWAC championships, 2000-02, 2005 and 2008. White was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2004.
He also helped shepherd in a period of offensive fireworks unseen in the storied history of Grambling football — shaping the record-smashing careers of Scotty Anderson, Tramon Douglas, Henry Tolbert and then Clyde Edwards. They’d set new school marks in every major receiving category, and Grambling would lead the Football Championship Subdivision in offense three times, 2002-03 and 2005.
“Nobody was better with those players,” Williams told me, as White was inducted into the SWAC hall in ’04. “He showed by example.”
Douglas eclipsed Jerry Rice’s single-season SWAC mark for receiving yards in 2003. Tolbert topped a school mark for scores in a single year by Eric Gant that had stood for 13 seasons in 2005. Edwards then passed Douglas in the Grambling record book for career receptions, set a new GSU record for career touchdowns, and overtook Anderson as the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards in 2007.
“To have a chance to play for someone who did those things, and for him to be so humble, was a great experience,” Tolbert told me. “It’s just pains me to see him go. Sammy White was much more than a coach; he was a father figure. And look at the product he’s put on the field.”
Today, White is not sure if he’ll return to the sidelines.
“The last three years have been stressful,” said White, who is mulling a return to school. “There have been long hours, and long days. It’s almost like a relief.”
As a player, White’s 102 points for the Tigers in 1975 wasn’t bested until Walter Dean scored 110 in 1991. As he entered the SWAC hall, only six players — including Pro Football Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner — had bested White’s senior-year average of 21.7 yards per reception. His 17 touchdowns in 1975 ranked third all time.