TAMPA — Rookie linebacker Devin White has three loves in life: his horses, football and his family.
So, the death of his favorite horse, Daisy Mae, just before he reported to his first NFL training camp this week hit him hard.
The 5-year-old Standardbred died unexpectedly of heat exhaustion during a trail ride Saturday night in his hometown, Cotton Valley, La., White said Thursday.
“We went on our last trail ride about 7:30 that evening,” said White, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick. “In my hometown, they had a trail ride that weekend, and I guess it was just so humid out there, she just got so overheated. That’s all I can say.
“We tried our best. We cooled her down; we had fans on her. I rushed her to the hospital that night, stayed with her until probably midnight, and she just didn’t make it, and I caught a flight here at 5 a.m. (Sunday) ready to play football.”
On Sunday night, White wrote in a Facebook post that he had lost his “first love” and that he was “in tears for over 10-plus hours.”
“That’s all I did (away from football) was be around my horses, and that horse, that certain horse because I have many others, that’s all I did,” White said. “It was hard, but once I knew I was coming back to another family where I was going to be playing football and studying plays, it was easier knowing I was going to another happiness. I’ve got three happinesses in this world, and that’s my horse-loving side, my football side and my family.”
White quickly had to turn his attention to his first training camp. Rookies reported Sunday and began practicing on Monday. The team's first full-squad practice is Friday.
"That was a good thing that I'm not sitting around and dwelling on it, thinking about the what ifs and what else I could have done and stuff," White said. "I just know I have something to do and this is really important and I know I have to be on my best."
White grew fond of riding horses at the age of 5, and he bought his first horse, which he named Ricky Bobby, with a $500 gift he got from his grandfather.
A former standout linebacker at LSU, White has said one of the highlights of his career was riding Daisy Mae in Tiger Stadium. He rode her around the LSU campus on exam day.
White, who owns several horses and he planned to move them from Louisiana to his new home in Tampa, definitely forged a unique bond with Daisy Mae.
“She was so similar to me,” White said. “When I’m not on the field, I’m very loving, just very laid back. She was pretty laid back. She wouldn’t kick. She wouldn’t hurt a fly, and then moment you got on her, she just had this speed, this spunk about her. She was already ready to compete.
"That’s like me on the field. That’s the hardest thing. I will probably never find another one. I’ve got multiple pictures and she’s like laying her head on my chest in the picture. Just we had that certain bond.”
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Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.