In his 10th season as head coach at Milford Mill, Reggie White has the Millers football team off to a 4-0 start after Saturday’s 33-24 win over Perry Hall, their first victory over the Gators during White’s tenure.
White, 42, returned to his alma mater after four years in the NFL -- three with the San Diego Chargers. A defensive lineman, he played in the 1994 Super Bowl with the Chargers, then spent one season with the New England Patriots.
As a player at Milford Mill, he helped the Millers win the state Class C championship in 1987. He went on to play at North Carolina A&T before he was taken as the seventh pick in the sixth round of the 1992 NFL draft by the Chargers. He was the 147th pick overall.
Friday night, the Millers head to Woodlawn for another Baltimore County Class 3A-4A Division game. At 3-0 in the division, they are tied for first place with Franklin. In the Class 3A North regional standings, they have sole possession of first place. But after this weekend, the competition gets tougher as the Millers take on the division’s Big Three in succession -- No. 7 Franklin on Oct. 5, Hereford on Oct. 13 and No. 9 Catonsville on Oct. 20.
As this week's Coachspeak guest, White talks about his team’s success, the rewards of coaching high school football and respecting his players’ NFL dreams.
What’s the main reason the Millers are off to a 4-0 start after going 5-5 last season?
Last year, we started the same way, 3-0 going into Perry Hall. We caused like seven turnovers against Perry Hall but still lost the game, so our thing is we have to beat who we’re supposed to beat and that’s not a shot at anybody or demeaning, but we’ve got to beat the teams we’re supposed to beat and knock off some of those that people don’t think we’re supposed to beat. Perry Hall was on that [latter] list and it was a great win for us. Our principal actually moved our Homecoming up to that game, so it was Homecoming and we got a victory. It was good for the kids.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a high school football coach?
Just when the kids come back. Going to one of my former player’s wedding. Just hearing about their stories, their college experiences. “We were in school" or "We were in study hall" or "We hate the cafeteria,” things they’re supposed to experience after they leave Baltimore or the state. It’s good to hear stories from them that they’re away and they’re finding their own way.
What’s the biggest challenge for a high school coach today?
It’s just getting acclimated to all the rules, all the new rules. You know -- no hitting here, not chopping there, no two-a-days here, no this and no that and then on top of all that you’ve still got to inspire these kids to play the sport. Even though you were taught or trained a different way to do it, you’ve got to train them in a certain way to get it done, so that’s the hardest part, just dealing with all the new stuff and still motivating these kids to want to come out there every day and get to work.
With your experience in the NFL, what do you say to your players who want to play in the NFL about the reality of their chances to get there?
I just tell then NFL means Not For Long. I say, “Well, that would be great. If that’s your dream, fine.” I say, “Then use me as a tool to get to your dream. Use this school as a tool. Get your education so you can go to college and use that, because if you make it, that’s great, but it’s not going to last forever. You’ve got to have something to fall back on.” So I don’t like to kill that dream. If it’s a 5-foot-5, 130-pound guy who’s saying that, instead of saying, “Come on, man. Let’s be real. You’re never going to do it,” I say, “That’s fine.” I say, “If that’s your dream, chase it. Chase it with everything that you’ve got.” I say, “Make sure you’ve got that education part. Make sure you’ve got the weightlifting part, the speed part. Chase it with everything. If that’s your dearm, let’s focus on it and try to make it.”
What is your coaching philosophy and how did that develop?
It’s probably coming from John Pastore and John Buchheister (White’s former coaches). It’s hard, but it’s the type of mentality that we’re going to work harder than we expect anybody else to be working. We’re going to train situational and we’re just going to plan for everything and work hard. Mentally, I’m going to give you everything, so when you play on Friday night or Saturday afternoon, it’s a cakewalk. I haven’t changed a lot.