Najee White needed an outlet.
The then first-grader was getting into trouble more often than his mother would have liked, so it wasn’t long before she signed him up for football.
The move proved to be exactly what the 6-year-old needed.
“I couldn’t sit still,” White says. “The discipline part of having to listen to the coaches was hard at first, but I liked the physical aspect of it. I excelled at it, and I just kept going.”
White’s competitive nature helped land him a number of starting positions over the years. And, now, the Booker senior is hoping to win the starting left tackle job in his first season with the Tornadoes.
White moved during the summer to Sarasota from Maine. Prior to moving to the Sunshine State, White looked up his new school and contacted coach Johnnie Jones to see if there was an opening on the team.
“Two days after I got off the plane, practice started and it was on,” White says.
That first practice proved to be daunting for White who had only been to Florida once and had never experienced temperatures above 90 degrees.
“At first, the heat was overwhelming,” White says. “I had borderline heat exhaustion. But I’m getting used to it and, now, I’m even keeping up with the skill guys on the track.
“It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come,” White says. “When I first started I would get dizzy and have to sit out, but now I can go the whole practice and I’m out there competing with my teammates.”
White’s perseverance and willingness to work hard garnered the attention of the Booker coaching staff this summer. Now, White is hoping to not only inspire his teammates but also prove himself as a leader.
“If you don’t show the coaches that you want a position, then you might not get it,” White says. “I’m a natural-born leader. If there’s no established leader then I’m the type of person to get up and pick up that role.”
— Jen Blanco, Sports Editor
To view more info on other teams, as well as scores, stats and video, click here.
BY THE NUMBERS
Booker High School
3201 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota
Mascot: Tornadoes / 2012 Record: 3-7
5 — The number of consecutive seasons Booker has gone without a playoff appearance.
329 — The number of points Booker allowed last season.
163 — The number of points the Tornadoes scored last season.
7 — The number of home games Booker will play this season.
Johnnie Jones: Second year
On the importance of the offseason: As a football team, we’re 100% better now than where we were at this time last year. We want to give the kids as many opportunities to get better as we can. They’ve had a full summer to prepare, and it’s coming along nicely. They’re starting to hold each other accountable. You prepare the team for the season during the offseason.
On the importance of team unity: We’re a family, and we’ve got to come together and push one another to get results on Friday night. If you don’t have togetherness as a family, then that equals nothing. Everything we do, we do together. We win as a team and a family, and we lose as a team and a family. We’re all we’ve got.
On moving up to Class 5A: There’s more passion when you’re playing against the kids you used to play against in youth ball. It’s more meaningful. There’s more of that old history there, and the games have more value when it’s two local teams with great players playing for a purpose. The benefit of moving up is you can look at the past and have a whole different image of a program. A team name doesn’t win a ball game.
PLAYER TO WATCH:
2 — Marlon Mack
Senior, running back/defensive back
“He plays with passion and is a leader on the field,” Johnnie Jones says. “He’s taken a lot of the younger guys who play his position and worked out with them. He’s levelheaded and humble. He’s a good kid who loves to be around his teammates.”
All games start at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 30 Sarasota
Sept. 6 at Riverview
Sept. 13 The Out-of-Door Academy
Sept. 20 DeSoto County*
Sept. 27 Braden River
Oct. 4 at Hardee*
Oct. 11 Ida Baker
Oct. 18 BYE
Oct. 24 Bayshore*
Nov. 1 at Southeast*
Nov. 8 Cardinal Mooney
*Denotes district game