Devin White went from a Pro Bowl snub to a Super Bowl Champion. Here’s how he did it.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Devin White with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, they had an idea of the kind of player he could become, but in just two short years, White has proven that he has been everything they bargained for, and more. Some have even, cautiously, incited the name of Buccaneer legend, Derrick Brooks, as a comparison.
As they started to see White develop into the dominating player that he is today, the Buccaneers knew they had something special in No. 45. He is everywhere, all of the time. Wherever the ball is, so to is Devin White.
White plays with an unparalleled speed in the open field. The way he closes in on ball carriers is unmatched. He’s never out of a play, and even still, this is not his most impressive attribute. No, that would be his ability to demand the attention of opposing quarterbacks. By White demanding the attention of quarterbacks, the defensive line can wreak havoc.
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When looking at Devin White’s stats for the ’20-’21 season, it’s easy to see why his name came up in the Pro Bowl conversations. There’s just one problem: he didn’t make the Pro Bowl.
White had 140 combined tackles on the season, which was the sixth-most in the NFL. This was enough to put him ahead of Bobby Wagner, who only had 138 tackles but still made the Pro Bowl.
While this is an impressive stat, what is more impressive is that out of those 140 tackles, 90 were solo tackles. That put White at fourth overall in solo tackles. Even more impressive still was his sack total. Devin White recorded nine sacks. Only three linebackers recorded more sacks than White, and none of them were Bobby Wagner.
According to Peter King of NBC Sports, Devin White expressed to Tom Brady that he was “…kinda upset…” that he didn’t make the Pro Bowl. Brady responded in the only way a 6-time Super Bowl champion would. Brady explained what the real goal was, and the Pro Bowl is far from the main prize. It was in this moment that Devin White realized that the Pro Bowl wasn’t the ultimate prize. He was ready to prove to the league that he was snubbed, and they were going to pay for it.
In the divisional round against the New Orleans Saints, White set the record straight. He had 11 combined tackles, with one of them being a tackle for loss. He added one fumble recovery that he returned for 18 yards, and he also had an interception that he returned for 28 yards.
In the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, Devin White did not have any turnover recoveries, but he did record 15 tackles. Nine of those tackles were solo.
Going into the Super Bowl, many experts believed that this Buccaneer defense didn’t stand a chance against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. There was no doubt that the Bucs defense needed to play a near-perfect game, which meant that Devin White would need to continue his Pro Bowl-caliber play. Fortunately, that is what White and that Buccaneers defense did.
Devin White looked a lot like a Buccaneer great
It was eerie how similar this 2020 Bucs defense was to the 2002 team who beat the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl 37. In both cases, the Buccaneer defense dominated the opposing team, and in both cases, there was a Bucs linebacker who wreaked havoc on the opposing offense. In 2003 the Bucs had Derrick Brooks, and in 2021, they had the Cowboy, Devin White.
White was flying around the field and baring down on the Chiefs’ offensive weapons all night. If someone wanted to know where the ball was, all they had to do was look for No. 45. Every tackle he made, White got in the face of the man he tackled. He was playing with confidence. He was playing with anger. White was playing for the love of the game. And ultimately, he was playing for that other Bowl that his quarterback talked about.
White had 12 combined tackles and two tackles for loss in the Super Bowl victory against the Chiefs. To go along with his 12 tackles, White had one pass deflection, and in Derrick Brooks-like fashion, White had a Super Bowl interception.
In just two years with the team, White has established himself as one of the best linebackers in Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ history. There are not many who can say that. There have been players who have come and gone, many leaving without having a lasting legacy. But thanks to his playoff and Super Bowl performances, there is no doubt that Devin White will forever be a part of Buccaneer lore. The NFL better get used to seeing No. 45.