When you think of the great defensive backs to come through LSU, there’s a few that come to mind.
Patrick Peterson, Eric Reid, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu made plays that created an institution within an institution. This new institution, better known as Defensive Back University, doesn’t play by the same rules as traditional schools. At this school, not only are players remembered for their achievements in college but for how they perform once they get to the big show — the NFL.
For LSU junior cornerback Tre’Davious White, the decision to return for his senior season even after being evaluated as a late first round to early second round pick was driven by his desire to be the next great defensive back to come from LSU.
White is chasing a legacy, not dollar signs.
“I know I could’ve made a ton of money by leaving but I feel like if I was to leave this year that I wouldn’t perform at the level that I would like,” White said at a news conference on Friday. “I just didn’t want to be a guy in the league. I wanted to be ‘the’ guy in the league.
He’s right, he could’ve made a lot of money if he chose to forgo his senior season. The last pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft, Malcom Brown, inked a four-year deal with the New England Patriots worth $7.6 million including a $3.8 million signing bonus.
The decision to come back for another year was even tougher on White when he considered his mother La’shawnita Ruffins. White said watching his mother raise him and his three other siblings in a three-bedroom house made bypassing the NFL draft an even harder decision.
Ultimately White’s decision to stay a Tiger for one more year fell on his love for the game. There was no four-year deal or signing bonus that could stop White from making the choice best for him.
“Nobody knows me better than I know myself,” White said. “Money was never the deciding factor in it.”
There was one player who knew just what White was going through. Unlike White, Morris Claiborne entered the NFL draft after his junior season and was selected sixth overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 2012.
White said Claiborne who is also from Shreveport gave him some much-needed advice in the days leading up to his decision.
“[Claiborne] was like ‘I know you’re in a great position to be wealthy but the NFL will always be there,” White said. ‘The money’s always going to be there. Don’t think about the money, think about you being the best player you can be.’ If I go back I’ll be an even better player.”
There was also a feeling of unfinished business that made White come back for more. The Tigers who were once ranked No. 2 in the nation went on a three game skid that cost them a College Football Playoff berth. The Tigers will return 18 seniors and bring a new defensive coordinator in Dave Aranda, who White said he is excited to play for next season.
When White first arrived on campus he wrote his personal goals down on a tablet. He told himself that before he left Baton Rouge he wanted to be a first-team all-American, a first-team All-SEC player and a Jim Thorpe recipient. These are all feats that some of the Defensive Back University’s finest completed during their time at LSU.
So for White it’s not just about graduating from LSU, it’s about graduating from DBU.
“So I asked myself if I were to leave LSU right now if I would be remembered as one of the great corners to come through here,” White said. “I feel like I’ll have that chance coming back for my senior season.”
Follow C.J. Rucker on Twitter @Ruckmatic.