Considering he grew up across the street from a football field, it's no surprise Reggie White loves the game.
White has centered much of his life around the sport. As a player, he played for Milford Mill Academy's lone state championship team in 1987 before enjoying a successful college career at North Carolina A&T. The 147th pick of the 1992 NFL Draft, he played in the league for four years as a defensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots. He even reached the Super Bowl, playing in Super Bowl XXIX for the Chargers.
After his playing career ended in 1997, White decided to get into coaching. He started at Woodlawn High School in 1999 before trying the collegiate level. He served as defensive line coach at Howard University in 2001 and held the same position at Norfolk State in 2002. The hours were brutal, though, meaning he could hardly spend time with his family.
In 2003, White sought to get back into coaching in Baltimore County, and soon found there was an opening at his alma mater.
"My athletic director, Joe Sargent, was the head coach at the time and said I could take over the program," White said. "I've loved it. I get to see my kids every day, my wife every day, and I love being able to make an impact with a bunch of high school-aged kids."
White has also gotten to enjoy wins, and lots of them.
When Milford Mill topped Dundalk, 27-22, Sept. 9, it was a meaningful win for the Millers. Besides it coming against a 2015 Maryland Public Secondary School Athletics Association 3A state finalist, it was White's 100th career win as a high school football coach.
The win did not come with a big celebration though. White didn't even mention he'd reached the benchmark to his team.
"Our goal is always to win states. Win the county, the region, then states," White said. "It is nice and it's a big accomplishment, but our goal isn't about me. We're chasing something bigger this year."
It looks like it could be a special year for Milford Mill. White hopes this team can do even better than his 2005 and 2012 teams, the two groups White considers to be the best he's coached. Both of those teams finished 11-2 with regional titles before losing in the state semifinals.
For his players, it wasn't surprising to hear of White's accomplishment, considering what he demands of himself and the team.
"He tries to get us fired up before every practice," senior strong safety Shawntay Thomas said. "Coach White always gives us speeches if we slack off. He wants us to be great every day."
White's coaching style is passionate. He's blunt and isn't afraid to let a player know if there's something he should be doing better.
"Coach White made me a better player pretty much by not sugarcoating anything," senior linebacker Marcel Allen said. "He tells you exactly what you need to do and what you need to work on."
While he may look like an imposing figure on the sidelines, White has a keen awareness. If a player isn't performing up to standards, there could be contributing factors off the field.
White knows how important a coach can be in a young athlete's life. That's why one of White's main rules -- one he thinks every coach should follow -- is: Every time you yell at a player, make sure you hug them twice.
"He'll teach you a ton about football, but he doesn't just teach you about that," senior defensive end and running back Jquane Harris said. "He teaches you how to be a man and helps you grow up."
As much as coaching is about the ability to put the team in the best position to win, there's a much deeper, human element to it. It's important for coaches to be able to help their team handle adversity, which is something White has far too much experience with this season.
This past December, Ty Brown, who had been a member of the Millers' football team as a sophomore in 2015, died after being hit by a car. White says it's the worst situation he's had to face as a coach.
"I had to show them how you deal with death. For some, it was their first time confronting it," White said. "We'll pray for the Brown family; we will mourn in our own way. We'll also talk about what Ty did real well and celebrate his life."
With White and his coaching staff setting the tone, the Millers decided to dedicate their next two seasons to Brown, which would have been his final two years of high school. His initials are on Milford Mill's helmets, and Brown will be listed on the team's roster as a captain.
When the team captains walk out for the opening coin-flip before every game, they carry Brown's No. 7 jersey onto the field. The Millers' slogan for this season is "Seven Reasons," which represents just how much they've dedicated this campaign to Brown.
It's been an emotional season for Milford Mill. Several players said they think about Brown constantly and immediately thought of him after the Millers pulled off the big win against Dundalk Sept. 9.
"Coach White was hurt about the situation, just like everyone was, but he pushed us and reminded us that this isn't just about us," defensive tackle and fullback Brandon Cooper said. "He gave us our own space about it and let the team decide what we were going to do. He let us figure out how we were going to remember Ty."
The experience has made White want to embrace the aspects of coaching he truly enjoys and part of that has been getting to coach his sons. His oldest, Reggie Jr., played at Milford Mill and is now a redshirt sophomore wide receiver for Monmouth University. White's other son, Nicholas, is a junior offensive lineman on this year's Millers' team. He credits his wife, Nicole, for not letting football talk dominate the White household.
Something else he's loved about coaching is keeping up with his former players and seeing their success away from the field. White enjoys when former players come back to visit him and talk about their families and career aspirations.
He's also made a habit of attending his former players' college graduations. Watching his players go from 13-year-old boys to 21- and 22-year-old college graduates and, eventually, grown men is the biggest thrill White gets from coaching.
"I'm going to make every graduation I can just to celebrate them accomplishing it, because that's what it's all about," White said. "Sure, I'm judged on wins and losses, but nobody knows about these hundreds of kids I've coached. That's what matters most to me."
Issue 226: October 2016