TAMPA — Rachaad White was supposed to look angry. Perhaps irate. Heck, they may have settled for slightly irritated.
The Bucs running back was making an acceptance video and taking photos after receiving a scepter for being the winner of Angry Runs from the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. The accolade came after his intimidating stiff-arm of Seattle defensive back Quandre Diggs during the 21-16 win in Germany.
“They told me like, ‘You’ve got to put a serious face on,’” White said Monday. “Some of the pictures they posted you could see it was kind of forced. You can see like a little smirk coming out. ... I just play football hard. Somebody asked me, ‘Do you see yourself being an angry runner?’ I said, ‘I run hard, so I guess that makes me an angry runner.’”
The way things are going for White, it’s easy to see why the smile can’t be wiped from his face.
The rookie from Arizona State, who made the first start of his career against the Seahawks in Munich, responded with 105 yards rushing on 22 carries.
Perhaps just as important, he demonstrated the skillset that could make him the Bucs’ primary ballcarrier the remainder of the season.
White was explosive, ripping off a 29-yard run. He was powerful, going 3-for-3 in third-and-1 situations. Finally, when the Bucs needed to elapse the final 3:58 off the clock while protecting a five-point lead, White enabled them to do so by rushing three times for 33 yards.
“I’d say I’m very comfortable,” White said. “Obviously, my confidence is at an all-time high but it just comes along with it. Knowing your job, doing your job. ... I just will keep learning as I go. But the things I can control is my attitude and my effort.”
White’s start in Germany may have been due to Leonard Fournette’s missing passport as much as anything.
Fournette eventually secured a replacement only hours before the Bucs’ flight to Germany. But however it happened, White had become a major part of the game plan for an offense that entered the matchup ranked last in the league in rushing.
Fournette did his part as well. He rushed for 57 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown before leaving the game with a hip pointer. Fournette’s availability for Sunday’s game at Cleveland is unknown but the Bucs have options. On Monday, they recalled running back Giovani Bernard from injured reserve and can activate him anytime during his 21-day workout period.
“You see systems in the league where they have two good backs,” White said. “They compete and go at it and they both piggyback off each other. That’s just what we’re looking forward to. I’m pretty sure they’ll be getting Ke’Shawn (Vaughn) more involved. That’s how it goes. You keep guys fresh and keep defenses on their heels.”
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The question now is whether the Bucs can keep the run game going. The Browns average 150.9 rushing yards per game, which ranks fifth in the NFL. Credit Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich for calling more running plays, a season-high 44 against Seattle.
What was the difference?
“I just thought we were all on the same page,” White said. “You could see, we were all in synch with one another. We barely had any hiccups as an offense, as a whole. When it comes to getting a good gain or only getting to the line of scrimmage or somebody getting into the backfield, it just seemed like everybody getting on the same page and just coming together.”
White’s stiff-arm, which sent Diggs flying for 5 yards, might have been the culmination of a lot of frustration that had built inside the 23-year-old. White has been known as a notorious late bloomer and his road to the NFL is one seldom traveled. The Kansas City native played football at Nebraska-Kearney before transferring to Mt. San Antonio College, then Arizona State.
“I’m a very even-keel guy, my impression was it was just a play to me,” White said. “But then everybody was excited and it was a good way to get the team kind of rallied up and fired up as I could see from my teammates’ and guys’ reaction. So it was pretty smooth.”
Kyle Brandt, the host of Good Morning Football’s Angry Runs, described it this way: “Guys, this is not a stiff arm. This is a right cross.”
But looking cross proved to be more difficult for White after receiving the scepter.
After trying to feign anger, he picked up daughter Nevaeh and gave a humble acceptance speech.
“Thank God I had an opportunity so that’s kind of what I focused on,” he said. “When opportunities come, I’ve just got to make the best of them. It’s up to me to make them. I’ve got a lot of great guys, great people in my corner. ... Life is about opportunities, when you get your shot, it’s about what you make of it.”
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