Mike White delivered in the front clutch.
The Jets quarterback shared a story on Wednesday about how, as a 10-year-old hitter in Florida, he threw a three-run home run — his first career home run — at St. Augustine, in Florida. birthday and his dad was coaching third base.
“As I walked around third base, I said, ‘Hey, happy birthday,'” White said. “My dad still has the ball.”
White can add to his dad’s ball collection with a strong performance Sunday against the Seahawks. The stakes are a bit higher than a Little League game with the Jets chasing their first playoff spot in 12 years. They need to win the last two games and have the Patriots lose one of their last two games to reach the playoffs.
White was cleared by team doctors to return this week after missing two games with broken ribs. After watching Zach Wilson struggle for the past two weeks, White is being hailed as a savior by some Jets fans. But White warned Wednesday that he wouldn’t be able to stop the Jets’ four-game losing streak on his own.
“Football is the quintessential team sport,” White said. “It will never fall on just one person. He will never fall on one side of the ball. It is a collective effort. In no way do I think I need to go out there and do anything out of the ordinary. I just have to play my game and get the ball to the playmakers and help this team try to move the ball and win those last two.
White was the quarterback when that losing streak began, losing games to the Vikings and Bills. Even though the Jets lost those games, the offense moved more effectively with him at quarterback. The Jets can only hope his return revives a unit that failed to score a touchdown last week against the Jaguars.
White said he doesn’t know if he will need to wear additional protection for his ribs this week.
“I feel good where I am,” White said. “I’m sure the coaches, doctors and equipment are doing arts and crafts and cooking up something for me. As I told you a few weeks ago, I felt like I could play two weeks ago. I still feel the same. I feel good. I’m sure there will be additional stuff, but I’m not sure exactly what it will be.
Bills linebacker Matt Milano broke White’s ribs with a devastating blow three weeks ago. Jets coach Robert Saleh said the whole offense needs to work better to keep White from taking any more big hits.
“It’s all encompassing,” Saleh said. “We have to direct the ball better, we have to protect better in attack. Everything starts upstream. We just have to be better, and the quarterback will always be affected. You wish he had a clean game, but that’s a bit of everything.
White, who grew up in Florida, said he watched the Dolphins-Packers game on Sunday while texting childhood friends who were Dolphins fans. White said he tried to keep his comments to a minimum, but was thrilled like Jets fans when the Packers beat the Dolphins to help the Jets earn playoff chances.
“Everything that happened had to happen for us,” White said. “It almost felt like a sign, like a second chance almost, and maybe a bit of extra life was breathed into the dressing room.”
After enjoying some success as a starter last year, White said he learned not to look ahead. The reality is that White could work his way up to be the Jets’ starter for 2023, but he’s not letting his mind go. He said he was only focusing on this week.
“I kinda fell into this trap last year and the possibilities of if and all the yada, yada and then things go haywire,” White said. “It’s the biggest thing I’ve learned and I’m going to continue throughout my career and the rest of my life and I’m going to pass it on to my kids. I really believe it’s the only way to be successful.