FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Extremes in Roddy White’s hectic football life played out daily this week in front of the No. 84 cubicle inside the thickly carpeted locker room at the Atlanta Falcons’ practice facility.
Roddy on a rollOnly five players in NFL history have had three consecutive seasons of 90 or more catches and 1,200 or more yards:Player (Years) TotalMarvin Harrison (1999-2002) 5Torry Holt (2002-2005) 4Jerry Rice (1993-1996) 4Roddy White (2010-present) 3Chad Johnson (2003-2005) 3Atlanta Falcons career receiving yards leaders:Player Years YardsRoddy White 2005-present 8,725Terance Mathis 1994-01 7,349Alfred Jenkins 1975-83 6,267Andre Rison 1990-94 5,633
White, a James Island High School graduate, has a big mouth and a bigger heart. His colorful eight-year career as an NFL wide receiver is dotted with controversy and charity.
“Roddy’s always full of energy,” running back Jacquizz Rodgers said.
“Always laughing,” tight end Michael Palmer said.
But one of the best and most quotable players in pro football barely talked this week as the Falcons prepared to host today’s NFC championship game, the first ever played in Atlanta.
Quarterback Matt Ryan, tight end Tony Gonzalez, White’s fellow wide receiver Julio Jones — they all had plenty to say about the San Francisco 49ers.
White was sending a less public message of restraint for anyone listening.
“Roddy has matured a lot,” running back Michael Turner said. “He hasn’t been used to winning until the last few years, and he knows what’s at stake here. He’s going to do the little things right and he’s going to take care of himself. Roddy’s just smarter, and a smarter football player.”
White, 31, might be a Super Bowl appearance away from taking an elite resume that includes four Pro Bowls to serious Hall of Fame candidacy.
He is the Falcons’ king of social media.
But the crowd of media people waiting for White with cameras and microphones got the brush off. Or, mostly, White was conspicuous by his absence.
“Where’s No. 84?” Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz asked a Falcons public relations staffer.
“He’s not talking this week.”
“He says he will only talk after the game.”
“It’s not something we asked Roddy to do, he wants to do it this way. He’s done this only twice before, last week and the Giants game.”
White had a 47-yard touchdown catch in the Falcons’ 30-28 playoff victory over Seattle last week, and Atlanta clobbered the Giants, 34-0.
“I’m superstitious,” White said, waving away camera crews who approached him as he snuck through the locker room. “See you Sunday.”
Later, White told The Post and Courier he wants “to let my playing do the talking” against the 49ers.
“This game is just too big,” White said.
Consider that White played in just one bowl game at Alabama-Birmingham, a Hawaii Bowl loss to Hawaii. Some of head coach Reed Charpia’s James Island High School teams overachieved, but when White was there the Trojans never advanced very far in the playoffs.
“We got to a second-round game against Greenwood,” White said. “But we lost. I haven’t won a football championship since, like, Pee Wee football. That’s another reason why this is so big for me.”
White is 6-0, 211, but entered high school at 5-3. His last fight for a championship was man-to-man combat; he won a South Carolina state high school wrestling title.
“Yeah,” he said with a big smile, “but it’s different in an individual sport. Then it’s all on you. This is more of a team thing, and with guys I’ve been with, some of them, for a long time.”
White is well aware he’s disappointing Atlanta radio and TV types with an appetite for juicy football sound bytes. White is so good on camera, some have suggested a post-playing career as an analyst or talk show host.
“I don’t know about that,” White said. “I really love football and being around the game, but if I do anything it would probably be as a high school coach or something where I could more closely relate to kids.”
The win against Seattle last week was huge for a maligned Falcons franchise bounced out of the playoffs without a victory in 2008, 2010 and 2011. White got the best of Richard Sherman, the yapping cornerback who gave Tom Brady an earful following Seattle’s win over New England this season and was punched by Redskins tackle Trent Williams just after a playoff game two weeks ago.
As much as White tried to contain himself last week, he wasn’t quite able to hold it in. Asked about the Seahawks the Friday before the game, White gave USA Today’s Jim Corbett a nugget:
“If Russell Wilson is a better quarterback than Matt Ryan,” White said, “then I don’t know nothing about football. I’m going to quit. I’m going to retire before this game starts.”
After White beat Sherman on the touchdown pass, the two exchanged words.“He’s a bit of a talker,” White said after the game. “I just asked him to talk to me for a while. He didn’t have too much to say after (the touchdown).”
White, often singled up in coverage against Sherman, wound up with five catches for 76 yards (Sherman broke up three passes). The individual success within a team concept is the latest example of Atlanta progress during White’s career. He didn’t make the Pro Bowl this season after a four-year streak, but the Falcons won an NFL-best 14 games.
“For a while, it was just Roddy on offense here, after Mike Vick left,” Turner said. “But then Matt came, and me. And Tony and Julio. Now he doesn’t have to do it all himself.
“He has taken a slightly smaller role but he’s still having a big impact.”
One thing hasn’t changed about the Falcons’ roster.
“He’s our fighter,” Turner said. “Roddy is a competitor. If you have to point one guy out as the guy who would fight for us, that’s him: Roddy White.”
White’s almost daily dabbling has led to more than 137,000 Twitter followers.
You never know what to expect from @roddywhiteTV.
His initial defense of Penn State for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal drew ridicule in mainstream media outlets.
White quickly backed off, apologizing and clarifying.
White weighed in this week with, “What’s y’all opinion about the Lance Armstrong interview I actually believe he never did doping.”
Roddy being Roddy also includes a passion for making fans happy.
“It’s fun to give away game tickets or movie tickets,” White said. “It’s fun to get to communicate with fans on a one-on-one basis and to get to meet them at various events and functions, too.”
Rise Up, the official Falcons mantra of the last two seasons, is part of owner Arthur Blank’s link to Rise Up Atlanta, which encourages volunteerism. The Blank Foundation recently presented awards for Falcons employees who “lead by example” and “give back to others.”
Among the “Ultimate Values in Action Winners” were three honorees, marketing executive Hamzah Ahmad and facilities director Spencer Treadwell. And Roddy White.
Not blabbing every day this week says a lot about White’s commitment, Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said.
“But one thing about Roddy,” Weatherspoon said, “he comes to play every week. Whether he says things or doesn’t say things, you can bet your bottom dollar he’s out there making plays. For this team, on and off the field, Roddy is a guy we count on.”
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.