Roddy White said he never got to meet a professional athlete during his high school days in South Carolina.
The Falcons wide receiver made that happen for the students at Mays High School on Tuesday, and as a bonus, White got to to fulfill another of his childhood wishes.
For one day at the southwest Atlanta school White took on the roles of teacher, cheerleader, band member and football coach. In what should produce little surprise considering White’s loquaciousness, the highlight for him may have been making an announcement over the school’s public-address system.
“I always wanted to do that since I was a little kid,” White said.
White, 30, told the school’s students he was excited to be there and that he’d walk around the building to talk with them.
“I didn’t even tell them my name, but they figured it out,” White said. “So I know they are football fans. That was a great thing.”
White was at Mays as part of Duracell’s “Trust Your Power” program. The company donated football gear, a defibrillator and other items to the school, including calculators that White handed out in a classroom.
White is a multimillionaire and an NFL star, but said he still can relate to kids.
“It’s always good, especially when you are doing things like this,” he said. “I remember being in the same shoes and looking up and just wishing someone [famous] would come through those doors. It never happened for me.
“When they can actually see you, touch you and feel you it’s totally different than me coming through a TV screen. Once they see you in the physical, they believe and they go a little harder.”
A visit from White probably would generate excitement any time, but it likely didn’t hurt that the Falcons are riding high.
The Falcons (3-0) are one of three undefeated teams remaining in the NFL. White has 19 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown this season.
“We are playing well right now,” White said. “We are locked in and ready to roll. We are just going to continue to do what we do. It’s football season. When we have some downtime, we stay in the community. You always want to give back.”
After school let out for the day, White took to the Mays football field. Before the team arrived for practice, White marched with the band’s drum line.
White said it was more difficult than he expected.
“He was good,” junior band member Amanda Watts said.
“He was all right,” senior Jordan Carter said, laughing.
White left the field as members of the football team began to arrive for practice. He reappeared later, put on a Mays football jersey and worked with the team’s wide receivers during practice.
White later huddled the team for a pep talk.
“Trust your power and believe in what you do, whether that’s in the classroom, football or whatever,” White said.
White told the players that individual accolades are nice but winning is what’s most important, and that takes a team effort. He noted that he’s been named to four Pro Bowl rosters but lacks an NFL championship.
White’s appearance at Mays was supposed to be a surprise, but word got out beforehand to at least some students.
“We found out yesterday,” Carter said. “We were ecstatic.”