Before he was a Pro Bowl receiver with the Atlanta Falcons, Roddy White was a two-time state wrestling champion at James Island Charter High School.
That's why USA Wrestling considered him the ideal spokesman for its new campaign to urge football players to wrestle, and vice versa.
So when USA Wrestling invited White this week to its Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., the NFL star decided to take 10 James Island wrestlers and their coach, Albert Spalviero, along with him.
"It's been great for those guys to get here and learn from these guys about how it's done at the highest level," White told USA Wrestling.
A USA Wrestling spokesman said White paid for the James Island contingent to visit the Olympic Training Center, where Olympic champions such as Rulon Gardner and Henry Cejudo are working out.
"It's been a great experience for them," Spalvierio said. "It's a unique chance for them to look at everything that's going on. You see our kids' eyes light up when they see these guys and how hard they work. They are ready to go get back to practice."
Spalviero said four of his wrestlers also play football for the Trojans, just as White did. He began wrestling as a freshman at 112 pounds, and weighed 189 by his senior year. White now plays at 212 pounds.
"Our kids have been able to see Roddy as a person, as a guy with a big heart," Spalviero said. "He teases with them, talks wrestling with them as well as football and life, so it's been great for them."
At the high school level, football and wrestling often compete for the same athletes. The point of the USA Wrestling initiative is that athletes can play both sports, and benefit from each.
"I love wrestling, and did it all my life growing up," White said. "Until I hit a couple of growth spurts, I thought I'd be a wrestler. I think wrestling can help you a lot in football, with quickness and balance and hand-to-hand combat. I know it helped me and helped my game."
White, 29 and a six-year veteran with the Falcons, has done a lot to help his high school through the years. He holds an inexpensive, well-attended football camp at the school each summer, and has donated equipment to the football team.
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