Sometimes, all you need is a chance.
Oft-traveled Eagles' linebacker Tracy White has finally been given his chance to shine on defense under defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, and he's made the most of it, shedding a career-long label as nothing more than a special teamer.
"We brought him here as a special teams player and Tracy told me when he got here, 'You know I can play linebacker too if you give me a chance,'" said head coach Andy Reid.
White, 6-foot-0, 230 pounds, signed with the Eagles in October of last season and produced enough on special teams to be brought back in training camp this year. The confluence of events that followed on defense provided White with the opportunity to play on defense for the most time in his career aside from a two-week spell as starter for the Seattle Seahawks in 2004.
After middle linebacker Stewart Bradley was lost for the season in training camp, White began to get more looks in nickel packages. He took over as one of the two primary nickel linebackers early in the season, and he's been a favorite of McDermott's ever since.
"The guy comes to work and you appreciate that," McDermott said of White. "In this day and age of professional sports, the guy brings his lunch pail and then he studies on top of that and he can run. You've got to have speed and you look at our defense and we're built for speed in a lot of ways."
And for White, a seven-year veteran out of Howard University, it's been a perfect fit.
"I love the scheme," he said after the 27-13 playoff-clinching win over the San Francisco 49ers. "I love the defense and I'm trying to be here as long as possible."
It was a special day for White because he notched his first career regular season interception. Late in the second quarter, after Donovan McNabb threw an interception in the end zone, White gave the Eagles the ball right back two plays later, setting up a David Akers' field goal at the end of the half.
"It was just being in the right spot at the right time," White said of the play. "We had pressure from Juqua (Parker), he kind of hit the quarterback. The ball went over the running back's head. I saw (Smith) looking for the check down, so I was prepared for that and I was in the right spot."
It wasn't the first time this season that White's been involved in a big turnover either. In the closing moments of the November 22 win over the Chicago Bears - the first win in what has become a five-game winning streak for the Eagles - White tipped a Jay Cutler pass up in the air, allowing Sean Jones to make the game-closing interception.
White's contributions on defense haven't detracted from his proficiency on special teams, he leads the team in special teams' production points, but he's used the opportunity show that probably deserved a chance to play defense for any of his three previous employers.
"He's a guy who can step in and be ready to play," said Will Witherspoon, White's usual partner at linebacker in the nickel. "That's exactly what you want out of a guy who may not be your primary guy at any one point in time, but when he comes in, he gets the job done.
"I think the coaches here have done a good job of realizing that he can play."
Indeed, one of McDermott's staples in his first season as defensive coordinator has been constant rotation of personnel to get the most out of each player. Part-time players like Jason Babin, Dimitri Patterson, Moise Fokou, White and even Jeremiah Trotter weren't expected to be impact players this season, but they've all become integral parts in the intricate Eagles' defensive machine.
"Everybody that dresses on defense plays right now due to some of the injuries that we've had," said Reid. "It gives guys an opportunity and (White) has taken advantage of that opportunity."
Tracy White Finds A Home With Eagles
Sometimes, all you need is a chance.