BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots added some depth to their backfield on Saturday, drafting Wisconsin running back James White with the 130th overall pick in the NFL Draft.
The selection gives Tom Brady another back to hand the ball off to behind Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. At just 197 pounds, White won’t replace LeGarrette Blount, who left for Pittsburgh in the off-season, as New England’s bruising back, but he gives the Patriots a very sure-handed rusher for the future.
White fumbled the ball just twice in 754 touches during his four-year career at Wisconsin, and he knows just how important ball security is for his position.
“Ball security is job security. If you want to be on a football team, you have to hold on to the football,” White told reporters on a conference call after being drafted.
The two fumbles aren’t the only impressive stat on White’s sheet. He ran for more than 4,000 yards and 45 touchdowns in his collegiate career, rushing for a career-high 1,444 yards in 2013. He was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year after rushing for 1,052 and 14 touchdowns in 2010, and was a second-team All Big 10 selection in 2013.
White found himself splitting time with 2013 NFL Draft pick Monte Ball for most of his career with the Badgers before taking over his senior year. He knows he’s joining a crowded backfield in New England, but said he never had a problem sharing snaps in college, and it won’t be a problem in the NFL.
“It wasn’t that difficult. I just played my role on the team,” he said. “Something I have to do once I get to this organization is play my role. Wherever the coach puts me, I’m going to go out there, whether it’s special teams or offense or whatever they want me to do, I’m going to go out there and do everything I can to help the team, just like I did at Wisconsin.”
White spoke highly of the running backs he’ll now be playing alongside.
“They’re great running backs — all guys that have had success in the NFL and I’m excited to get a chance to learn from them,” said White.
At just 5-9, White fits the mold of past third-down backs in New England. He reminds some of backs Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead, and was asked about those two on Saturday.
“I’m very familiar with those guys,” he said. “I don’t too much model my game after anybody; I just try to go out there and be the best player I can be each and every day. But I’ve definitely watched those guys and they had a lot of success in the Patriots organization.”
With a new offensive coordinator at Wisconsin last year, White became more involved in the passing game, finishing the season with a career-high 39 catches for 300 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Now, he’s excited to possibly catch passes from Tom Brady.
“One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time – to learn from him, that would definitely be something special,” said White.
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