The New England Patriots won Super Bowl LI in Houston’s NRG Stadium by coming back from 25 points down to win in overtime, 34-28. Tom Brady drove the comeback, breaking several Super Bowl passing records in the process, and he was rightly named the game’s Most Valuable Patriot. But the Patriots have now won five Super Bowls–one behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in that department–and have established another kind of unofficial MVP award: the Most Valuable Patriot, a player who had an unexpected big game to contribute substantially to the win. Think of Malcolm Butler two years ago, not even starting the game, coming in and playing better and better at defensive back, and ultimately making the signature play, a game-saving interception at the goal line to end the Seattle Seahawks’ last-minute drive.
This year the Most Valuable Patriot had to be running back James White, who scored 20 of the Patriots’ 34 points (two rushing touchdowns, a receiving touchdown, and a rushing 2-point conversion), and led the team in receptions and receiving yards. This is typical of the Patriots, who run an offense that varies significantly from game to game, as they look to create favorable match-ups against opponents’ defenses. Through their playoff run, the Patriots were led in receiving by three different players:
- Super Bowl: James White, 14 receptions on 16 targets, 110 yards (7.9 average), 1 touchdown
- AFC Title Game: Chris Hogan, 9 of 12, 180 (20.0), 2 TD
- Divisional Playoff Game: Julian Edelman, 8 of 13, 137 (17.1), 0 TD
- Regular Season: Edelman, 98 of 158, 1,106 (11.3), 3 TD
Who is James White? A 5’10” 205 lb. running back in his third professional season after being drafted in the fourth round out of Wisconsin in the 2014 draft, which saw the Houston Texans pick pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina first overall. In those first three seasons, White was used sparingly in the rotation at running back, mostly as a pass-catcher. In the regular seasons 2014-2016 he had 105 receptions for 984 yards and 9 touchdowns.
For the purposes of Man of the Year, the question is “Who is James White and what are his community service projects?” A cursory search of the Patriots’ website didn’t turn up anything, so I sent in a public-relations request, and will report what I learn. My sense is that all these NFL players do something in the community, but only the top-level stars get publicity for their efforts. That’s really the objective of my research, to find out the whole truth about pro sports and community service.
In terms of the “Trump’s America” theme for the new work, White provided a tid-bit there, as Pro Football Talk reported that the running back might join teammates Martellus Bennett, Chris Long, and Devin McCourty in skipping a celebratory trip to the Trump White House. Again, more on that as it eventuates.
The New and the Old!
Even as the new work of Man of the Year goes forward, the old work is still available, and you can take a 15% discount on the paperback format:
Farewell to Football? An American Fan’s Examination of Conscience. Click here to order a copy in paperback or Kindle format.
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