Zamir White is back, both physically and emotionally, according to one of the people who know the highly-touted UGA running back the best.
You can just look at White’s posts on social media, said his high school coach, Richard Bailey, of Scotland (N.C.) High School.
The workout videos are back, showcasing White’s legendary work ethic and determination. Perhaps more importantly, White has his smile back.
“He’s in a good place,” Bailey told DawgNation.
“Zamir texted me the other day and gave me one of those ‘100 percent’ emojis with a flexed arm and said ‘I’m ready. He’s in a really good place (emotionally). He looks like he’s ready to go.”
It has been a long and painful journey for White, the nation’s No. 1-rated recruit at running back who missed his freshman season at Georgia last year with a torn ACL in his left knee.
For White, the timing could not have been worse, as he had just finished recovering from a torn ACL to his right knee, suffered 10 months earlier during his senior year of high school.
“Obviously he was devastated when it happened the second time,” Bailey said. “He was crushed when it happened in Scotland, and then obviously he was devastated when it happened at Georgia after going through all the rehabilitation for 7-8 months, and going through spring, feeling like ‘OK, I’m ready to go.’ Then to tear his other ACL — it was just devastating.
“I’ll be honest with you. For a while there, he was a pretty depressed guy. Even I had a hard time getting in touch with him for a couple of weeks. He was in a little bit of a dark place, which is understandable. It took some time for Zamir to get his mind right … but he sure did.”
For the young phenom nicknamed “Zeus,” White kept a low profile on the sidelines at Georgia games last season. He usually wore his No. 3 jersey over street clothes or warmups, sometimes with a hoodie over his head. He was always standing in the general vicinity of his fellow running backs, but maybe not always as close as if he was playing. Some of that had to do with White’s natural shyness, while another part was probably due to his disappointment over not being able to help his team as he had hoped.
Help From Other Members of ‘RBU’
Arguably White’s biggest emotional boosts came from talking to other Georgia running backs who flourished in football after recovering from serious knee injuries. Those long and candid conversations gave White a fresh outlook, according to Bailey:
“Georgia has had a history of great running backs who have done it. And they (Georgia) have had people talk to him who have also been through this, whether it’s Todd Gurley or Nick Chubb or any of those guys. They’ve been through these kinds of things, and they’ve talked (White) through it
“Zamir has figured out that these types of injuries are more common … it’s a serious injury, but these days people come back from these things brand new and ready to go.”
In around a month, UGA will kick off preseason practices, and Smart has told reporters that White is expected to fully cleared. Then White will have the opportunity to live up to the surreal hype he got out of high school. His coach says he’s the real thing.
“I truly believe in my heart that he’s a special dude. I know I’m biased, but I’ve been (coaching) for 28 years and I’ve had 4-5 other major-college running backs. They just don’t make running backs like Zamir. He’s a legit 4.4 guy at 230 pounds with so many intangibles.”
One of those intangibles, which has also greatly assisted White in his rehab, is his work ethic – which is legendary around central North Carolina.
“Nobody is going to work harder than him,” Bailey said. “He’s a tremendous athlete. There are a lot of great athletes who aren’t great football players and don’t have great work ethics. There’s a lot of talented people who (never did anything) with that talent.
“Zamir is an extremely talented person, but he also works harder than anybody. I mean, at the high school level. I’m sure everybody in college works hard. But I bet if you asked Kirby Smart who works hard at Georgia … I doubt there’s many others at Georgia that work as hard as Zamir does.”
Where did White pick up that work ethic?
“He has always been that way. What he went through early in his life with some of the adversity he faced. I think he’s always felt that this (football) was his way to be something, and really change his life. Don’t get me wrong – he has a very supportive mom and other family members. But I think he feels like he has been blessed with a gift (of talent), and he wants to maximize his abilities.
“I always talk to Zamir about ‘filling his cup up.’ Zamir has a very big cup. Some people don’t have a big cup. They can still fill up, though, but they’re still not going to be a major-college running back with (an excellent opportunity to play in the NFL). Zamir has a big cup, and he’s filling it up.
“If he can just stay healthy …”
Maybe There Was A Plan
Those injuries. What’s mind-boggling about White’s recent stretch of serious knee injuries is that no one ever saw it coming. White seemed immortal in high school, barely missing any games or practices.
“He’s really not injury-prone, and he hasn’t had a history of injuries,” Bailey said. “He didn’t miss a lot of games in high school with injuries. He didn’t even sprain ankles. I mean, that cat was almost never hurt. He hyperextended his knee one time, and maybe missed one game. He probably could’ve played in that one, but I kept him out. But he’s not an injury-prone person. Maybe there has been some wear and tear on his body, but it (the two ACL injuries) seems more like bad luck than anything else.”
Nevertheless, the injuries happened, and White’s brightly-shining career path in football has been derailed – but hopefully only temporarily. For White, everything got upside down there for a bit where things just didn’t make sense.
Now, upon reflection, maybe it all makes sense to White and his inner circle. There may be a spiritual component to this whole ordeal.
“God probably had this whole thing as a good thing for Zamir,” Bailey said, speaking softly. “The knee he injured in high school has now had almost 18 months or two years to recover, and the one he hurt last August will have a full year of healing. Both of those knees will be ready to go.
“Zamir tells me he’s not having any issues with his knees. He said there’s nothing to indicate that he’ll be anything less than 100 percent this season. I think he feels as healthy as he was in high school, and he’s ready to do it for the University of Georgia. The fans are going to be excited with what they see.”