James White, who scored the game-winning touchdown in the New England Patriots’ historic comeback win over Atlanta in Super Bowl 51, announced his retirement Thursday.
White won three Super Bowls in eight seasons – all with the Patriots.
“This chapter was one I will cherish. I’m excited for what’s next,” White wrote on Instagram.
White set Super Bowl records for points scored (20) and receptions (14) in a game as the Patriots rebounded from a 28-3 deficit in the third quarter to edge the Falcons on February 5, 2017 by 34: 28, the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.
White, 30, was trying to work his way back from hip surgery that ended his 2021 season abruptly. He dislocated his hip during the Patriots’ Week 3 game against New Orleans.
White also struggled in 2020 as he dealt with the aftermath of his father’s death and his mother’s serious injury in a car accident.
He spent seven months recovering from hip surgery before signing a new two-year deal to remain in New England in March. But he started training camp on the physically incapable list and was never cleared to resume full contact training.
Despite being short at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds when he was selected from Wisconsin in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, he was the Patriots’ favorite receiver from the backfield in his sophomore season — particularly in third pick.
He appeared in 95 regular-season games and had 1,278 rushing yards on 319 attempts for 11 touchdowns. As a receiver, his numbers were more impressive: 381 catches for 3,278 yards and 25 TDs. He also appeared in 12 playoff games and posted eight TDs (five rushing, three received).
In a statement, Patriots coach Bill Belichick called White “one of the most respected and best team players I’ve ever coached.”
“James defines the consummate professional,” said Belichick. “His reliability, consistency, unselfishness and ability to perform under pressure are elite. Combining great intelligence, speed and elusive skill, James fitted our pass attack perfectly. Despite speaking softly, he brought exceptional leadership and competitive strength to the team.”
Many of White’s former teammates sent him congratulations on social media.
“Teammate, champion, football player through and through. Congratulations on the perfect career,” former Patriots quarterback Top Brady posted on Instagram.
“My brother on and off the pitch. Third-and-James White,” said Patriots retired wide receiver Julian Edelman.
As much as White became a symbol of Patriots culture, he will be best remembered for helping lead New England to the franchise’s fifth of six Super Bowl titles.
New England were 21-3 down at halftime and teammates said a speech from White in the dressing room helped the comeback. With the Patriots trailing by 25 points, White hit two TDs and had a 2-point conversion run to send the game into overtime. In extra time he ran for the final score.
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