Patriots

‘These guys helped shape who I am’: Emotional James White bids farewell to Patriots in press conference

White said he knew his career was likely over before training camp began.

James White
Patriots James White became emotional during Tuesday's press conference. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

James White promised himself he wouldn’t cry as he bid farewell to Patriots teammates, coaches and fans in a press conference on Tuesday.

He nearly pulled it off, too. But the final question of the evening — a query about his late father Tyrone, whose steady presence had an enormous impact on White’s development as a player and as a man — overwhelmed the former running back.

“You never really get over things like that,” White said, wiping away tears. “You just learn how to deal with it in a sense. It’s kind of an empty void that doesn’t really go away. But I’m definitely extremely grateful for the way my parents raised me. … They did more than I could have ever asked for as a kid.”

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White talked extensively about his parents, who raised him not to get in trouble. His father — who died in a car crash in 2020 — was a police officer. His mother was a probation specialist.

“Not many bad things going on in that house,” White quipped, chuckling.

Now, White is making decisions for his own kids. He has two — a two-year-old and a one-year-old — and he said part of his retirement plan is to help his wife a little more with their young family.

“I think a lot of things weighed into my decision [to retire], not just my hip,” White said. “As I said, having a two- and a one-year-old, you can see how wild they can be at times. Just to be able to assist my wife at home now and give her the support she needs and allow her to chase some of her dreams, that was kind of in my decision as well.”

Still, the hip certainly was a factor. White reportedly was still walking awkwardly as training camp began after suffering a hip subluxation last year, and he said he felt his rehab hit a plateau. He knew his career was likely over before training camp began.

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“Do I think I could have gone out there and played? Probably,” White said. “I don’t know how good I would have looked, and I don’t want to put myself — I don’t want to put the team in a position as well — for them to be expecting a certain type of player or certain type of guy they are used to seeing. For me to go out there and not be that guy, that would be hard for me, that would be hard for them to see.”

White can — and seems to — take a lot of pride in how his career unfolded. Bill Belichick noted that White wasn’t a particularly big-name prospect coming out of Wisconsin before the Patriots took him in the fourth round in 2014.

“Weren’t big, weren’t fast, didn’t jump high, etc.,” Belichick said. “But what those numbers don’t measure is intelligence, toughness, heart, teammate, dependability and longevity. And that overrode all of whatever the other ones were, great hands, great quickness, great instincts for the game, played your best games at the biggest times.

“The poise and competitiveness that came out in those times were truly exceptional.”

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Still, the Patriots weren’t just going to hand White playing time. He joked about how his career started, with a year largely on the sidelines. He watched Super Bowl XLIX in a sweat suit as Tom Brady and the Patriots sweated out a game against the Seahawks. White was inspired.

“I said if I ever got the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl, I’m going to do whatever I can to help my team win,” White said. “Somehow we ended up in the Super Bowl two years later, and I had my opportunity.”

White took full advantage of the opportunity in Super Bowl LI. He finished with 139 yards from scrimmage — 29 rushing, 110 receiving — with three touchdowns and a two-point conversion, setting the record for most points in a Super Bowl. He even gutted out the game-winning touchdown in a tough play from third-and-short in overtime, as the Patriots finished off their legendary 28-3 comeback against the Falcons. Tom Brady, who was the game’s MVP, later told reporters he thought White should have earned the award and gave White his MVP prize — a pick-up truck.

How did White feel when Josh McDaniels dialed up a toss for him on the final play?

“Well, I was extremely exhausted,” White said. “The play before, I jogged off the field and LeGarrette Blount was coming on the field, I was like, ‘Bro just please score. I’m ready for this thing to be over with.’

“When Josh called a toss, I was like ‘I’ve got to get in the end zone. I’m extremely exhausted. I’m ready for this to be over with already.”

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So what’s next for White? He said he would like to coach someday, although probably not in the near future.

“The hours can be very strenuous,” White said, chuckling.

He’s also has his eyes set on TV, radio and shoe design — a wide range of interests that can all wait for the time being.

“I’ll just take some time to relax with my family for a little while and figure things out as they go,” he said.

But White also said he wants to make sure he stays around the Patriots organization for a while.

“These guys helped shape me who I am, not just the people I grew up with as a kid,” White said. “These guys right here, whether it’s one year, a few weeks, eight years, they’ve all impacted me in some sort of way and helped shape me to be the human being I am today.”

White will seemingly be welcomed back with open arms. Belichick made sure the 30-year-old knew how much his deep desire to win meant to the organization — calling him a role model for both players and coaches.

“I’m very proud to have coached you, very proud of the achievements and accomplishments that you’ve made for the organization, and for what you’ve done for me,” Belichick said. “I sincerely mean that. We’ll miss you, but we’ll never forget the contributions and the standards that you set for us. That will live on, and those banners that hang up there wouldn’t be hanging up there without you. …

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“It’s certainly been an honor to coach you, James.”

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