Aug. 20, 2002
CHEYENNE, Wyo. -
Herman White epitomizes what the University of Wyoming defense isall about.
White came to Laramie in 1998 out of Thomas Jefferson High in Denver, and helooked like he would be one of the better middle linebackers to play for theCowboys in recent memory. As a true freshman, White played in all 11 of UW'sgames and recorded 26 tackles and forced one fumble.
But over the next three seasons, White played in a combined 17 games. In2000, he was granted a medical hardship by the NCAA and was given and extrayear of eligibility.
White has suffered shoulder, wrist and hamstring injuries throughout hiscollege career. He also was diagnosed with a form of vertigo, which alteredhis equilibrium. His most recent setback was a shoulder injury that requiredreconstructive surgery after the 2001 season and forced White to miss springpractice.
White is just one example of the rash of injuries that has plagued UW'sdefense the past two years. Injuries, inexperience and at times poor playresulted in UW finishing last in the Mountain West Conference in totaldefense and rushing defense each of the last two seasons.
But White, and the entire UW defense, is eager to show what they can do whenhealthy in 2002.
"I think I'm due. It think I need to get out there and show what I'm about,"he said. "We're all taking it more personal this year.
" 'Wyoming Tough' defense is always something that people come to Laramie tosee. We haven't showed that the last two years. Everyone's motivated to getback out here to show what we're really capable of doing."
Even though he didn't participate in spring drills, White's teammates votedhim one of two defensive captains this season. That choice came as nosurprise to UW defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt.
"He's been a great guy to watch over the years because he's really matured,"Wallerstedt said. "His leadership on and off the field has been great. Evenwhen he sat out spring drills, he was still very vocal on the practice fieldwith the younger guys."
Wallerstedt added if White had stayed healthy throughout his UW career, heprobably would be an all-conference caliber linebacker. Wallerstedt alsosaid White has proved a lot to him and the rest of the UW coaches over theyears for his resiliency in dealing with all his injuries.
But there is still something to prove.
"I think maybe in the overall picture, he knows what he can do," Wallerstedtsaid. "He's a very confident player who wants to stay healthy and prove toeverybody what he can do. I think he'll have some big numbers."
This season is White's last chance to prove what he can do, and it may bethe last chance for the UW coaching staff as well if the team doesn'timprove on a 3-19 record over the past two seasons.
"With every thing we've been through, now it's time for us," Wallerstedtsaid. "We're healthy, we're deeper, we're more experienced. These guys havecome a long way.
"Now it's time for, not just Herman, but for this entire defense, to make astatement that we're back to the way the Cowboys' fans want us to be. Andthat's lead the charge, be aggressive and make plays."
Added White: "It's more mental now. If we take care of the mental things,everything will take care itself."