From Broken Bones to Bruin

Thanks to family, coaches, teammates and self-motivation, Rachaad White has a constant hunger to be the best


Broken bones. Lack of recognition. Uncertainty. These are the kinds of things that might discourage some individuals, but for 20-year-old running back Rachaad White, it lit a fire. His journey of pain and passion from Kansas City to Los Angeles was one that motivated him to land where he stands now: a community college football player with a commitment to play ball with the UCLA Football team.

White is officially a Bruin.

It was a routine practice on the Mt. San Antonio College football field when UCLA’s running back coach DeShaun Foster decided to check out the star player. White explained:

“He let me know that he’d be watching me at practice. Coach Foster is a UCLA legend. He had a great career. I was just happy and excited and blessed with the opportunity that UCLA could provide. He was recording me doing certain drills in the beginning, and by Thursday, he had called my coach, getting some background on me. Saturday, he hit me up on Twitter.”

The seemingly casual Twitter direct message from Foster read, “Great to see you.” He asked White to call him.

“He asked if I wanted to be a Bruin. I said, ‘ For sure, I want to be a Bruin.’

‘Do you want to stay in California?’ he asked?

I’m like ‘Yes, for sure I want to stay in California.’

He said, “You’ve got your offer. We want to offer you.”

For White, it was a dream that had become a reality.

“I was thankful, blessed. It was a happy moment in life. Everything you’ve worked for… are still working for, you know, dreams coming true,” White said.

Rachaad White kneels and prays with his team and Mt. SAC Head Football Coach Bob Jastrab before a game against El Camino College on October 26, 2019 on Mudrock Field Field in Torrance, California. Photo: Mychal Corbin/Substance Magazine

White grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, the youngest of four brothers, with a single, working mother carrying the load. According to White, it was her struggle that gave him his drive.

“Just seeing my mom’s struggle, what she goes through, makes me want to make a change in other’s people’s lives.”

Sports were always a part of his upbringing with his brothers all playing sports, but it wasn’t always football for White.

“I was a great basketball player. I played both, but I was better at basketball,” White said.

White originally wanted to be in the NBA.

“I liked basketball, and basketball players were it,” White said. “Then growing up, I started taking off in middle school in football.”

White was playing basketball all state but said that football was something different. He would watch the NFL teams, and that’s when his dreams of hitting the field, playing pro one day, began.

Rachaad White, 7, in Kansas City.
But then the setback happened. White broke his ribs and clavicle while playing ball which would cause him not only physical pain but some time in rehab to recover. This was a turning point.

“I got hurt in football at a scrimmage, so I missed half of my junior year season. It was a rough time in rehab,” White said.

White didn’t want all the hard work he put in to get back in shape to be for nothing, so he decided that football would be his focus.

“I still gave basketball my all, but I was working on my craft in football more than basketball because I wanted to take it to the next level,” White said.

When talk of getting recruited in high school became a reality, he was playing harder, while also focusing on academics.

“I had a lot of interest from big schools like Iowa State. They were coming by the high school, a lot of big Division One D1 schools were coming by, too. They liked my size.” White said the offers came at a price, with people from the outside doubting his ability, especially on social media.

“You got the doubters. Just like if you look on Twitter right now, doubting me like, ‘UCLA, you know recruiting’s a joke,’ things like that, because they offered me. It’s just life. I’ve been dealing with that my whole life.”

White chose to go to a Division Two D2 school because his high school coach pushed for the players to go to a university. This decision did not come without its own set of personal struggles for White. He had no offers from a D1 college in his senior year of high school. The last straw came when White did not receive a prestigious award from Kansas City.

It was 2016, and White was nominated as a semifinalist for the Thomas A. Simone Memorial Football Award, which is presented annually to the “most outstanding high school football player in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area,” according to the organization’s Facebook page. He was nominated for his outstanding stats while playing with Center High School.

“I did not even get it. That’s what really hurt my pride so much. It’s a Heisman type award in my city. All I remember is not receiving it.”

His mother saw the devastation on White’s face when he broke down into tears. It was the end of his senior year and he didn’t have a D1 scholarship.

“My mom is tough. She said, ‘This pain you’re feeling right now… If you don’t ever want to feel it again, you know what time it is. You had better get to work.’”

White landed at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where he met Mt. SAC alumni teammates. He decided to “redshirt,” when a player sits out a year of competition just to practice and learn, and the player at the end of that year is still considered a freshman, and still has four-year eligibility within the college football program. He explained:

“There were some Mt. SAC guys that came from this program. They were telling me I’m special and that I shouldn’t be there. So, I was going to redshirt at first. I was just going to play and take over the starting job, but then I decided to have a talk with the head coach. I said, ‘I think it’s best if I redshirt, gain some weight, get faster, stronger, get more explosive.’”

Alumni from other junior colleges, or JUCOs, in California, were looking out for him, reminding him he had the option open to attend one himself.

“There were dudes in my ear, telling me ‘You can go to a Cali JUCO, but I’m telling you, make your grades and you can get out to a big-time school,” White said.

After his highlight tape was out, the calls came in, again.

“I had Saddleback calling me, then I had Mt. SAC calling me, and a couple of other schools. Mt. SAC — the way they chose their words — being straight-forward, like, ‘You’re going to struggle out here; you aren’t going to have in-state, and tuitions will be high for a kid like you.’ I said, “It’s okay. I need to struggle. I need something new.”

Mt. SAC Football Assistant Coach Evans Roderick addresses the team before their game against El Camino on Oct. 26, 2019 in Torrance, California. Photo: Mychal Corbin/Substance Magazine

Mt. SAC proved to be the right decision. White values the atmosphere at Mt. SAC, and with his team. He likes being a part of the SACDAWGS family and said he felt this same camaraderie on the UCLA turf.

“Coach Foster, Coach Kelly, the athletic director, other coaches that talked to me, some players, they just kind of took me in, embraced like a family, and that’s what made me think, ‘Okay, I like this place,’” White said.

When White officially received the offer from UCLA, the first person he called was his mother. He remembered the moment.

“When I broke the news, my mom was at work, which was crazy because she had put in some overtime that day. She was at work on a Saturday. I shot a text to her like, ‘UCLA just offered me,’ the day I got the offer.”

White said his mom went on break and Facetimed him at least 25 times in eight hours.

“She was just like, ‘I’m just so happy.’”

And while UCLA will be something new in White’s football journey, working hard and staying hungry is not. Despite an offer and commitment to a prestigious school, the running back is not about to get comfortable.

“What motivates me, is just that I want to succeed. I’m blessed, because not a lot of kids get the opportunity, but I want to be better than that. I want to live out my dream. I play to be the best.”

White is excited for what lies ahead at UCLA.

“UCLA is a great school in general, especially academically, so it played a huge part in just setting up my life. At the end of the day, I’m going to graduate from college. I’m going to graduate from UCLA. I’ll play my two years out regardless of how good my first year is. My mom is big on getting that college degree.”

White is a journalism major at Mt. SAC, and at UCLA, he will major in communications with an emphasis on journalism. He hopes to one day be a sports broadcaster and commentator.

Running back Rachaad White during a play on Murdock Field in Torrance, California, where Mt. SAC Football won against El Camino. Photo credit: Mychal Corbin/Photo: Mychal Corbin/Substance Magazine

White gives credit and thanks to the Mt. SAC football coaching staff for pushing him, and to his teammates. He credits a former running back coach, John, and current offensive coordinator, Coach Robert Purcell.

Coach Bobby kept it straight forward, and said, ‘You’re a good running back. You can be special, but what’s going to separate your game from the good to being great is just knowing the game. Knowing where your linemen are, where the blocks are going to be set up. Winning with intelligence. And my teammates, they never let me slack. I never want to slack.”

He added, “I’ll always be a SACDAWG.

Rachaad White and quarterback Zachary Rangel field speaking with Mt. SAC Football Assistant Coach Evans Roderick before a home game against Palomar at Covina District on Oct. 19, 2019 in Covina, California. Photo: Mychal Corbin/Substance Magazine

What said he plans to take the same mindset that got him this far to UCLA.

“I’m not better than anyone on my team. I want my teammates to have the same opportunity as me, so I’ll just keep pushing them. We are all good and all on the same level. We all came to JUCO. I got the UCLA offer but that does not define me being better than you. I am level headed and very humble. It’s how I was raised. I ain’t done anything yet. I’m not satisfied. I’m never complacent. Like I said, I want to be the best. So that’s what keeps me humble.”

Rachaad White before a home game against Palomar College at Covina District Field on Oct. 26, 2019 in Covina, California. Photo: Mychal Corbin/Substance Magazine

Sports reporters Jesse Espitia and Eric Tadeo interviewed White for this piece.