VANCOUVER — One of B.C.’s most explosive high school football talents announced Saturday that he is ready to make the green, green grass of Thunderbird Stadium his football home for up to the next five seasons.
Handsworth Royals’ wide receiver Keelan White announced at halftime of the UBC Thunderbirds’ annual Homecoming Game against the arch-rival Calgary Dinos that he would be donning blue-and-gold next season. The 6-foot-1 standout is expected to make the signing official next week.
White is currently leading the entire B.C. high school football world in receiving yardage with 29 catches for 529 yards and three touchdowns. in just four games. He is averaging 131.5 yards per game and 18.14 yards per catch.
“It was really tough but what it came down to was what was best for me and my family, both financially and it being close for them to come and watch games,” White said of picking UBC despite the interest of all local schools and virtually every U Sports program across Canada.
But it’s all about finding the campus community he feels he can best grow in as a prospective kinesiology major.
White had gone to UBC’s Homecoming Game last season, and says the vibe he experienced had a lasting impact on him in terms of the environment he would be entering as a student-athlete.
“It was a great energy there,” he explained on Saturday morning. “And it’s really been picking up, so it’s going to be really cool to see what happens there over the next few years.”
Clearly, White’s explosive talent will be a boost to a Thunderbirds program offence which has struggled when injuries have limited its ability to stretch the field vertically.
For head coach Blake Nill, White’s recruitment clearly represents a coup in terms of luring the province’s best high school pass catchers into his program.
“Coach Nill was really straight to the point,” said White. “He told me how much he wants me, and that he wants to bring the very best guys into this program.”
From his resume alone, White is one of those players.
Last January he started for Team Canada in its win over the United States in the International Bowl in Arlington, Tex., and he played for Team B.C. the past two off-seasons.
His head coach, who also happens to be his father, has seen White embrace the entire learning spectrum at receiver.
“I would say the areas where he has improved the most would be on the technical side of being a receiver,” says Handsworth head coach Richard White, a former Simon Fraser Clan (1979-82) running back and linebacker, who came west from Ontario to play his university football.
“He’s worked hard to understand what it takes to get open, and not just the speed and athleticism, but things like footwork and how to become more elusive. And he’s had some great mentors to in guys like Paris Jackson and Geroy Simon.”
And Richard White doesn’t need to be reminded how lucky he is to be sharing this football experience with his son.
“I get to share the ups and downs with him and it’s all first hand,” he says. “As a parent in the stands, you can only imagine what is happening. I get to share all of that with him during the games.”
Yet above all else, history shows that Keelan White has always been both a natural, and slightly ahead of his time.
His dad, in fact, can remember bringing him to his first GSL Flag football game on the North Shore, back when he was only four years old.
“The age group was seven and under, and in his first game, he was so quick and ran around everyone, that he scored three touchdowns,” Richard White remembered with a laugh. “He was four, and they were seven.”
Does Keelan have any recollection of his grand gridiron debut?
“Oh, yeah. I remember I was playing quarterback,” White begins. “I just kept running all the time. They called me Slippery. No one could take my flag.”
Maybe it’s time to bring back the old nickname. What could be more fitting?
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