By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots running back James White has accomplished a lot on the football field, but there was something missing from his trophy case: A college degree. He added that to his collection over the weekend, fulfilling a promise that he had made to his parents.

White graduated from the University of Wisconsin on Saturday, earning a degree in Life Sciences Communication by taking courses online over the last year. The plan was to surprise his parents, but those changed after tragedy struck the White family last September.

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White’s father, Tyrone, was killed in car accident that seriously injured his mother, Lisa. White said Tuesday that following through on his pledge to graduate made his mother extremely happy and proud of him.

“She was definitely excited,” White told reporters on a Tuesday afternoon video conference call. “The goal, my wife and I talked about it, was to surprise my mom and dad. I was taking classes last spring. The goal was to surprise them with the degree, but once everything happened, we told her I was taking classes so she knew what was going on.

“Every offseason her and my dad would ask me if I was taking classes or when I would get it done,” added White. “It was good to finally finish.”

White said that his mother is still recovering from the car crash, adding that she is a “fighter.”

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“She’s continuing to do better. It’s a long process and I’m sure there is a lot that runs through her mind that she may not necessarily tell me,” he said. “She’s a fighter and every day she’ll continue to do better and better.”

White is back with the Patriots after a brief soiree into free agency. He’s eager to get back to work with his teammates, which now includes a large group of free agent signings. He said that New England’s offseason spending spree wasn’t the biggest factor in his return, it was more the familiarity that he has with the team and vice versa. He knows that the Patriots coaching staff will always put him and others in the best position to succeed.

“We have a great group of guys who have helped me become the player and person I am today — coaches and players,” said White, who added that staying in New England was the best decision for his wife and young kids as well.

After a 7-9 season in 2020, the Patriots are determined to have a much better year in 2021. Players and coaches are already hard at work to make sure that happens, but there is still a lot to be done.

“Only time will tell. It doesn’t matter how many guys you have stay or how many new guys you have coming in. It’s how you perform each and every week,” said White. “It’s a long time before we get out there for a preseason or regular season game. Guys are working to improve and put their best foot forward, build team camaraderie.

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“We didn’t perform our best [last season] so everyone is chomping at the bit to get out there and improve,” he added.

CBSBoston.com Staff