By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
As the country realizes the new normal, the National Football League has a new normal as well. Gone are the days of locker room access for the media members, where we could pull a player aside and talk to them individually or at their locker. As part of the new normal, the media must rely on the team’s public relations members to schedule players at the podium or request individual interviews with a specific player(s).
Recently, I conducted a phone interview with Los Angeles Chargers’ fourth-year Linebacker West Virginia Mountaineers graduate Kyzir White. I was eager to talk to White about his development in the league and his opportunity to play for coach Brandon Staley. Staley has been widely recognized as the hottest defensive mastermind to take over the NFL. I was also interested in hearing his immediate thoughts on some of the high-profile teammates he’s been playing with the past few years.
White grew up as one of seven siblings in their Plainfield, New Jersey home before they would relocate to Pennsylvania, before him going to high school. Sports was a major part of his upbringing for him and his brothers, Kyzir wrestled, played basketball and baseball to stay busy, and stay out of trouble. He and his brother Ka’Raun played on the same team three out of four in college, which he described as “a dream come true.”
Following in the steps of his older brothers Kevin and Ka’Raun, Kyzir became the third White brother to play football at the University of West Virginia, impressively each of them would get drafted and go on to play in the National Football League. Before becoming a Mountaineer, schools approached Kyzir about the possibilities of playing linebacker. It wasn’t until his preparation for the NFL draft process that he bought into the idea of becoming a linebacker.
“I think it (the transition) helped my skillset because I feel like I’m an athletic linebacker. Whereas at safety, I wouldn’t have been one of the most athletic guys at the position. Linebacker definitely is better for my skillset; I could use my speed; I still have ball skills from playing safety. I still have good feet and quickness from playing safety, so I think it helps me, for sure.” White said this about his transition from safety to linebacker.
When I told him that I viewed him as more of a hitter than a cover guy, White was quick to let me know that, “I definitely love hitting, but I can cover as well. When you play linebacker, of course, you’re going to be doing more hitting than covering.”
“Over the last 10 years, that safety-to-linebacker transition has become a lot more common. I think that you’re always looking for that projection and how would they truly play behind the ball? Do they have those true ‘behind the ball’ instincts? Are they physical enough to take on blocks in the core? That is a real transition. White is just an example of a guy, that is just a really good football player. He has real toughness, real physicality. We’re just definitely glad that we have him, for sure.” Coach Staley said when asked about White’s transition from safety to linebacker in college.
Staley added, “Kyzir is our style of linebacker. I think that he’s physical. He’s tough. He can tackle. He can see. I think that’s one thing that I’ve appreciated about him; he can see the game within the box. You need that at linebacker, someone who has that key to diagnose. He’s a fearless competitor. He’s done a really good job for us running the show at times in some of those one-linebacker defenses. He plays with a type of physicality, a type of toughness. He can get you the ball, too — he’s a ballhawk. He can go after the football. You can see that safety background kind of express itself at the end of the down when he’s trying to go hunt the football. I’m just so proud of him. I think that he’s been a real bright spot for our defense.”
Since the Chargers brass did decide to bring in a new coach this off-season, I figured it would be interesting to hear White thoughts on the differences between this season and the previous seasons’ environment. “We all are, bought in, we pretty much trust each other to do our job, and I feel like we are going into these games with the mindset that we are going to win. If we are down by fourteen (points) in the fourth (quarter), we got (Justin) Herbert, Keenan (Allen), Austin Ekeler on the offensive end that can get done for us. We know, on the defensive end, we have key pieces as well, where we can get a lot of key stops when we need to.”
When I asked about the difference between this team and the team from years past, White emphatically told me, “Coach (Anthony) Lynn is a heck of a coach. He gave me a great opportunity, so I have nothing bad to say about him at all.” This is understandable, considering that is the regime that drafted him. White added, “Staley is a great coach as well. He has us prepared; I feel like we go there knowing what to expect. Throughout the week, we’re game planning. I think we are locked in and keyed in! Some years are just different than others.”
In his young career with the Chargers, White was able to play beside and learn the position from established NFL veterans like Thomas Davis and Denzel Perryman. Davis a three-time pro bowler, All-Pro linebacker, and 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner would be a great resource for a young player. White told me that his takeaway from Davis, who is also the Carolina Panther leading tackler, was, “how he prepared and his work ethic was crazy to see first-hand. He motivated me to want to be on my P’s and Q’s with taking care of my body, so I could last as long as him hopefully.”
“With Denzell, everything was mindset. Because he’s not one of the biggest linebackers out there, but he’s very strong and his mindset separates him.” White was also happy to point out that, at the time of our conversation, Perryman was leading the NFL in tackles; “he’s coming to hit you and strike you every time. There’s no fear in his heart. The mindset, even if you are out there and somebody gets you, just come back the next play and get them. That’s really what I took from DP and I appreciate him for taking me under his wing since my rookie year and showing me the ropes along the way.”
When asked about what jumps out to him about White, Chargers Defensive DC Renaldo Hill told me this, “the biggest thing is not making the same mistakes. He’s big at self-correcting, also taking our coaching and saying, ‘Hey, this is what I need to do to get better.’ He’s doing those things and not making those same mistakes. He’s improving his game just by the things he saw in the past and not letting them happen again.”
Off the field Kyzir is an avid gamer, White confidently told me “I do 2K, Madden, Call of Duty, I do it all man.” He even shared his online handles with me, “you can find me at Kywhite8 on Playstation; on everything.”
Because of the way some guys can get caught up on social media, I was curious about his approach to social media, “I’m not that active on social media. I’ll post here and there, but as far as twitting all the time and posting pictures every day and doing all that, I don’t do all that too much. I try to stay low-key on social media. As far as being on it all the time, that a’int me. Because like you say, you can get caught up on it.”
With his wrestling background, I was wondering if he thought of himself as a potential WWE wrestler, so I brought this up when I asked him what he would be doing if he weren’t playing in the NFL, after chuckling he said “Nah man.” He then went on to say, “that’s a tough one. I don’t know what I’d be doing, maybe coaching because I love the game so much. I couldn’t see myself being away from the game; maybe like a high school coach or something like that.”
White plays on a talented team and I thought it would be cool to hear his description of some of the players he plays with. So, I proposed playing a name association game with him, I would mention a player’s name, and I would ask him to tell me the first thing that came to his mind describing his teammates;
Derwin James- “Enforcer.”
Joey Bosa- “Laid back.”
Linval Joseph- “Big Goon, that what he calls himself.”
Justin Herbert- “Baller.”
Keenan Allen- “Shifty.”
Austin Ekeler- “Mr. Do it all.”
In closing, I asked Kyzir if there was anything else he wanted fans to know about who he is. In his own words, “what you see is what you get; I’m a humble guy, hard worker all about football and family. That’s pretty much my life.” I can vouch for this description of himself, as each time I’ve had an opportunity to talk to White, pre and post this COVID19 pandemic, he’s been gracious with his time and gives quality, substantive responses to my questions. This interview wasn’t much different, as you see he’s passionate about the game and being a good teammate.
On the field, White has been a factor all season as well. In their initial game, after they turned the ball over, he caused a critical fumble which would give their offense back the ball back allowing them to then score the go-ahead touchdown for their first victory of the season. In their most recent game and further supporting coach Staley’s belief in him, White picked off a pair of passes to go along with a season-high eight tackles. Thus, becoming the first Chargers linebacker to have multiple interceptions in a single game since 2008. All the while proving his value in this new developing Chargers defense.
White has the ability, passion, and pedigree to play in the NFL for years to come. His on-the-field production and willingness to learn from those he played and plays with makes him an ideal teammate. In a short amount of time, he’s shown that he can be a valuable asset to this Chargers squad. Kindly share your thoughts on Kyzir White and his impact on this team by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics, angles, or players on this Los Angeles Chargers team you would like to read about this season.
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