Drew White enters the field at the 2022 Fiesta Bowl (Photo: Chad Ryan)
When Drue Tranquill went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter against Navy in 2018, a number of likely candidates that might replace him came to mind. But when number 40 entered the game, a bit of a murmur among the ND press corps arose. Not many knew who #40 was.
#40 was unknown red shirt freshman Drew White who surprisingly had gotten the call,. White went on to perform just as surprisingly well that day against the always tricky Navy triple option. Showing excellent football awareness, he exceeded expectations and finished the day with six tackles. From then on, there was never any doubt who #40 was.
At 6-0, 220, White was a little undersized and not a particularly heralded member of ND’s 2017 recruiting class. Rated a low three-star he hailed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He broke his ankle and saw no action as a freshman and had only made a few special team appearances his sophomore year when he got the call against Navy.
Beyond that Navy game appearance and some special team work he saw little additional action as Drue Tranquill quickly returned to the line-up in 2018. But White was slated to take a bigger role his Junior year with Tranquill graduated.
Unfortunately, due to an off-season skiing accident he was forced to miss spring practice that year. Despite that the ND coaching staff remained believers. Recovered from the injury once the fall rolled around, White performed well in camp and was an opening day starter in 2019 with Jeremiah Owusu –Koramoah and Amar Bilal flanking him. All three of them went on to stellar seasons and White led the way, and the team,in tackles with 80.
In 2020 White again was a key performer as the Irish rolled to the College Football Playoffs. By that time, he had developed a reputation for extraordinary physical and mental toughness. “He’s a warrior” is how Brian Kelly described him, and defensive coordinator Clark Lea, once described White as “maniacal” on the field, White finished the season again as one of the team’s top tacklers and tied for the team lead with 9 tackles in the Alabama playoff game.
For an encore in 2021 White was elected team captain and again was in the starting lineup. He finished the season second only to JD Bertrand in tackles. In a key win over Wisconsin he capped off a flurry of Irish points in the second half with a 45-yard interception, “pick six”.
Drew White was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Washington Commanders after the 2022 NFL draft. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in August 2022. He is currently is on the Commanders injured list.
Drew White, ND 2017-2021, another Fighting Irish Preview, All-Time Irish Hero