When he stepped onto the University of Mount Union campus four years ago, Austin White was promised he would reach his full potential as a football player and compete for national championships.
All of those things and more have come true for the former Wadsworth standout.
No matter what happens tonight when the top-ranked Purple Raiders take on second-seeded Mary Hardin-Baylor in the Stagg Bowl — their 21st appearance since 1993 — the journey has been incredible.
“It’s definitely an honor to play for a program like this,” White said. “This is something I will cherish for a long time. There has been so many great memories over the last four years. One more would make it better.
“It was exactly what I was told it was going to be: a winning environment, a lot of hard work. It’s been a honor.”
The hard work isn’t over, however, as the senior will put on his purple helmet for the final time when Mount Union clashes with the same Crusaders team it shut out 12-0 in last season’s national title game.
White was a big part of that win and the ones that have followed. In his third season as a starting safety, the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has been a force for a defense that has been tops in the nation.
White has collected 50 tackles, three interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles to pick up first-team All-Ohio Athletic Conference honors for the second straight season.
“The coaches have helped me grow as a player a lot,” he said. “They’ve given me every opportunity and work with me all the time, work on my technique, got me stronger. Those coaches and the players around me always pushed me to work harder. Everyone on defense keeps getting better each year. It’s a brotherhood.”
Mount Union will have its hands full with a run-heavy Mary Hardin-Baylor team averages 55.5 points. All-American senior running back Markeith Miller leads the charge with 1,774 yards and a school-record 29 touchdowns on the ground.
“They’re a really good team, so hopefully we can stop the run and slow down their offense,” White said. “We just need to stick to our game plan and play together. Everyone has to do their job and trust each other.
“We don’t need to hype this game up too much. It’s just another game we want to win.”
White has been a winner on the gridiron and off.
Sure, the OAC and national titles are great, but the three-time All-Gazette pick has taken away so much more from the experience. He will graduate in May with a degree in business management, a minor in entrepreneurship and lifelong friendships.
White is hoping to add another memory tonight.
“We obviously want to win it, but whatever happens, happens,” he said. “This something I will never forget. The friendships, family, brotherhood, it’s truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Over these four years, they’ve changed me as a man, gave me opportunities, so no matter what, I’m grateful for everything.”