Editor's Note: Markee White is from Long Beach, CA and played football for the powerhouse Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits. He played collegiately at Texas State University before beginning his professional football playing career. He is currently a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League.
My First NFL Experience
By Markee White
On March 29, 2007 I put it all on the line at the University of Hawaii Pro-Day at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. I knew I had to redeem myself from my previous Pro-Day experience where I did not perform as I had wanted.I was a part of the 2006 draft class, the class where Mario Williams overtook the number one pick in the draft from Reggie Bush. The same year I fell from being a projected 6-7th round pick to an undrafted free agent. The same year I cried after the NFL Draft when I did not receive a phone call from a team. The very year I worked out with the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons but failed to get signed. The year I had my first son and had to find a job to take care of my family. But 2007 was different, I marched into that Pro-Day broke, hungry, and extremely motivated. I NEEDED one of the 32 teams to see me and to show them they had make a mistake by passing me over the previous year. I needed this and felt blessed that my agent provided me the opportunity to be seen by these teams again and I delivered.
The 2007 NFL Draft was a different experience for me. I wasn’t glued to the television like the previous year but it was still lingering on my mind. April 29th was a Sunday and it was a red-letter day. That afternoon I was with my real estate agent signing the paperwork to move into my first home and that is when I received a phone call from an unfamiliar area code. It was from the 314 area code and I hesitantly answered it. The first thing I heard from the other line was, “Is this Markee White?” It was the St. Louis Rams and they had just offered to sign me to an NFL contract. The feeling I was experiencing and my reaction to the phone call was as if I had just won the lottery. I had a smile from ear to ear whenever I wasn’t yelling at the top of my lungs. I was still in disbelief until I received an email containing a flight itinerary and a Fed-Ex package with my contract. God had answered my prayers.
I arrived at the St. Louis Rams rookie mini-camp as one of four undrafted free agents along with another wide receiver who was picked up in the draft. I was considered a long shot to actually make the team but I was hungry. While in camp my play started to turn heads right away and played well in the Rams’ OTA’s (Organized Team Activity). After those finished, we had a month break where I continued to train and prepare myself for training camp. I came into training camp with one thing on my mind, to make the team. Veterans, such as Tight End Randy McMichael, and his words of encouragement, reassured my purpose to me that if I kept up the hard work I’d make the team. Training camp is where I became a sponge and quickly learned what I could from NFL veterans such as Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce. I carefully studied their every move and listened to every bit of advice they gave me.
These lessons and practices led up to my first preseason NFL game against the Minnesota Vikings. Walking into the facility, into the locker room, and seeing a St. Louis Rams jersey with my name on it was surreal. It is an experience that not many people will get a chance to have but is relatable to everyone who has experienced it. I did not get a chance to get reps on offense but I played on Special Teams. Even though I only played on Special Teams I knew I belonged. The second preseason game I played in was against the San Diego Chargers. This game I had more playing time that included one solo tackle on the Kickoff Team and plays on offense during the second quarter and second half. After that game I got a phone call from my dad saying that my name was called on TV. My name wasn’t just announced on TV but the commentator Phil Simms thought that I would be one of the wide receiver free agents he thought should either make the team or get signed to the practice squad to develop. Wow. Phil Simms knew who I was and he liked the way that I played. Then I checked my messages, I had over 20 missed calls and voicemails from friends and family telling me similar stories about the game. I was truly living the dream at that time, but an NFL career is never guaranteed.
My third preseason game was against the Oakland Raiders. This time, I didn’t play until the fourth quarter but I still managed to rack up two catches for 10 yards, but that wasn’t enough. The next day I was in my hotel room and I heard a knock on the door. The Rams assistant told me that the head coach wanted to see me then he told me to bring my playbook. They had released me. I was angry and disappointed but remember the words given to me by my wide receiver coach, Henry Ellard. He had told me to continue to stay in shape and be prepared because you never know when you’d get called up again. I am thankful and blessed that I got the opportunity to play in the NFL and still pray that I get a second chance to fulfill my dreams.