Former waterboy leading Washington on the field

Mark White is the leader of the offensive and defensive lines at Washington. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Long before he was knocking players off the line of scrimmage, Mark White was a key member of the team.

White, now a senior at George Washington High School, has been a part of the team since he was in sixth grade. And while he wasn’t playing, he was making sure the stars had what they needed to succeed.

“I was the waterboy and I thought it was the coolest job in the world,” said White, who was the waterboy when he was in sixth grade when his brother Brandon Brown was the starting center for the Eagles. “On Fridays I would go right to Washington, I traveled with the team to away games, I was in the locker room.

“I loved it. I thought it was the best thing. It was funny because all of the guys on the team felt like they were 2 feet taller than me. Now we have a waterboy, he’s the brother of one of the players and I tell him that I was him.”

It’s likely the new waterboy feels like White is 2 feet taller than him because he casts a huge shadow both figuratively and literally.

White stands 6 feet 3 and weighs about 320 pounds. He’s one of the biggest guys on the field every time he steps on it, but don’t let the size fool you. White hits hard, but is light on his feet and there are few linemen as fast as he is.

That’s a credit, he says, to his love of basketball and the work he puts in when he’s not playing football.

“Growing up, I was always a basketball player,” White said. “My brother was at Washington, but I started at Imhotep and I tried out for basketball my freshman year. It was the first time I ever got cut. I stopped liking basketball, and my brother was coaching at Washington, so I went there. I then decided to play football.”

It’s been a wise move.

Brown stars at both guard and nose guard, and rarely comes off the field. He’s in great shape for a big boy on the line, and the next time he gets winded will be the first time.

“You see a lot of big guys and they’re big and sloppy and slow, but I work really hard so that’s not me,” said White, who lives in Mount Airy. “I’m big, but I’m in good shape. I got a lot of that from basketball, but I also work out really hard. My brother coached me, and we work hard at Washington, we started doing summer work even. We all work hard.

“My brother works me really hard. He makes me swim laps. He makes me run hills at Valley Green. It can be frustrating because he definitely pushes me, but he does it because he wants what’s best for me. He definitely has me doing what I need to do. He’s just doing it to make sure I’m doing everything I can to get better.”

White has become a star player for the Eagles, and in just his third year of playing football, he’s become the guy who shows all the other players what they should do.

The Eagles opened the season with a loss, but then accepted two straight victories by forfeit, giving them a chance at a special season. This week, they defeated Southern 20-14 to improve to 3-1.

But the team does lack experience. As talented as they are, a lot of the players are getting their first varsity high school experience this year.

If they need help, they have a guy who will always be there for them.

“I try to lead by example because I hold us to a high standard,” White said. “It’s the team I want to have. I don’t want to be a team that’s all over the place. I hold us to a high standard, being on time, showing up ready to work. I expect a lot out of them and they’re doing it.

“It’s a great group. Young, but dedicated. It’s fun to see. I can see everyone wants to win. They’re buying in.”

He gives them the support they need, and that’s why coach Stephen “Kyle” Benzio felt White was the right man to lead his team. He hasn’t been disappointed.

“He’s the heartbeat of our team,” Benzio said. “He’s really been a great leader on and off the field. He’s that kid who gives his all and sets the tone for games and practice. The team follows him. He works hard so they work hard.”

White is going to continue to work hard.

He has high hopes for this year. He wants to lead the Eagles to the playoffs and hopes they go on a little run once they get there. He is also looking forward to squaring off with Ryan on Thanksgiving.

But he has dreams beyond Washington.

He hopes to play college ball and take football as far as he can while getting an education.

“I want to graduate high school and go on to college,” White said. “I’m not sure what I want to do. Right now criminal justice or business management or sports marketing. I like all three of them.”

He also hopes to continue giving back to younger players just as older guys have helped him.

“I’m lucky, my brother is the best role model, he’s always there for me, and the coaches at Washington, they look out for us,” White said. “And Jackson Duncan, who owns Sweat Fitness. He’s been a great mentor. He gives us a place to work out, makes sure we get to and from his place, and helps us with whatever we need.

“I have had a lot of help with people making sure I do well in school, football and stay safe. That means a lot.”