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Why I like Brad White

Kentucky’s defensive coordinator is as real as it gets. Photo Credit Dr. Michael Huang

As Kentucky prepares to play Iowa in the Citrus Bowl, there’s still one member of the Wildcat coaching staff that hasn’t gotten nearly enough love.

When defensive coordinator Brad White announced he was staying at Kentucky, I couldn’t help but smile. The former NFL linebackers coach paired with the commonwealth’s rising (but raw) football talent seemed like a match made in heaven. Composed, competent, candid, and courteous…what’s not to like about the guy?

“I am so excited to be here and to be Kentucky’s defensive coordinator,” White said at the very beginning of his meeting with media last week. “Kentucky’s home. Kentucky’s family. Myself, my wife, my kids, we feel one with Big Blue Nation. To me that is more than anything.”

White’s on-the-field record speaks for itself. In 2019, in just his second year with the team, Kentucky’s defense ranked 13th in the nation in scoring defense and 21st nationally in total defense.

The following year in 2020, White’s defensive unit ranked in the top six of almost every defensive statistical category, including leading the league in pass defense and turnovers forced.

In addition to racking up wins during this period for a defensive-minded coach like Mark Stoops, White also helped groom budding football prodigies such as Josh Allen, Boogie Watson, and Jamin Davis for future NFL stardom.

Drawing up Xs and Os and developing talent notwithstanding, it’s White’s personal attributes that have me spewing superlatives his way.

I first met Brad White at a social event shortly after he was introduced. He didn’t know me from Adam, but he chatted with me as if we were long-time neighbors. He was naturally friendly, humble, and surprisingly disarming (probably because he didn’t know me from Adam). I immediately surmised that this was a good man who I’d want coaching my kid.

That initial opinion never wavered through the glut of interview opportunities and postgame pressers that subsequently accumulated over the years. Win or lose, there was Coach White—a rock of stability—patiently answering questions and supplying the needed analysis in the most professional, courteous, and diplomatic manner possible. Never once have I seen him flustered, aggravated, or irritated in his responses to a reporter’s question—no matter how inane or often repeated the topic.

I recently asked the Rhode Island native and Wake Forest graduate his keys to success. Here’s what he said.

On his growth as a football coach: “I know I’ve grown significantly from when I first started coordinating in ’19 until where I am now. I know a lot of that comes with experiences—good and bad. As far as the Xs and Os piece, I think you have to continuously be learning in this landscape because offenses change so much…you gotta kind of stay on your toes, and you gotta face multiple offenses week in and week out. It’s not stagnant.”

On his personal development: “I feel like I’m in a better situation. I try not to let anything rattle me too much. I try to be as calm as I can. I say that and in the very last game, I got my very first penalty. Everybody has a time to grow. We always run as a defense for penalties that following week. I lined up the defense and they were all like, ‘What are we doing?’ And I was like, ‘Well, a lack of discipline by anybody including a coaching staff member, we gotta run our gassers.’”

On his relationship with Mark Stoops and the rest of the coaching staff: “Coach and I have a good rapport on game day to be able bounce things back and forth off each other and even through the week. I think too, I’ve let go of the reins at times a little bit. In my first couple of years, you felt like you had to do everything. You’ve gotta be able to delegate. We’ve got really good coaches on this staff. I’ve learned that you’ve got to let them do what they do best—and that’s coach their position and have a little more responsibility so that they can continue to grow within the profession, and that they can become coordinators [or head coaches].”

On Coach Jon Sumrall leaving for Troy: “I’m obviously thrilled for Jon. He’s going to do a phenomenal job down there. Personally, I hate losing him. He’s one of my best friends, not just this profession but on this planet…We’ll bounce ideas off each other, and that’s how you grow. ‘Hey, I saw you do this.’ In this profession, that’s what it’s all about.”

A married father of three, I’ve also seen how Coach White properly balances his football priorities with his family and his faith. Like the selfless role model that he is, the analytical finance and accounting major recently donated his entire Citrus Bowl bonus money to the Western Kentucky Tornado Relief efforts. He wanted to do it secretly with no fanfare but agreed to let Mark Stoops make it public in hopes of convincing others to also generously give.

But here’s what really put me over the edge in terms of personal accolades for the guy. Earlier this season, after a heated post-game presser with the usual gaggle of reporters, Coach White cornered me privately and handed me an envelope. In it he had written a heartfelt personal note acknowledging the passing of my dad that very same week.

Oftentimes as part of the media, you try not to get too personal with the people you’re writing about. After all, you both have jobs to do. There’s always some natural disagreement and friction involved. But this much remains true. No matter what you think of him as a football coach, the humanity within Brad White is as real as it can be. That’s why I like him…and that’s why you should too.

Dr. John Huang covers University of Kentucky sports for Nolan Group Media and JustTheCats.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. His latest book, KENTUCKY PASSION is available in bookstores and online at https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him @KYHuangs@gmail.com. If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at www.huangswhinings.com.
http://www.huangswhinings.com

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