Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White noticed something different near the end of the 2020-2021 season. Teams were adjusting their game plans to avoid him — a futile mission that typically resulted in him chasing down the ball anyway. That’s because the 23-year-old, championship-winning leader is unavoidable. He’s everywhere, at all times. On the ball. In your ear.
At six feet, 237 pounds, Devin’s 40-inch vert and 4.42 40-yard-dash time are unfathomably impressive. His explosive agility paired with his innate perception and learned offensive readings made an instant impact on the league. In his first year, he became the Bucs’ first rookie to record multiple tackles, an interception, a fumble recovery and a touchdown in the same game.
Born and raised on Louisiana’s northern border, Devin started playing football at seven years old. Back then, he was already mature, strong and advanced enough to play against nine- and 10-year-olds. As a high school running back, his versatile athleticism powered him to more than 5,000 yards and 80 touchdowns. When he realized that he could have a longer career hitting people, rather than getting hit, he shifted to the defensive position of full-time linebacker. He later excelled at LSU, earning All-American honors twice, All-SEC honors twice and becoming the first LSU player to earn the Dick Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker.
Proof of Devin’s hard work continued when Tampa Bay selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft; later, they named him a team captain at 22 years young. Since then, he’s been solidly dominating NFL offenses. In Tampa’s Super Bowl run, he wrangled 38 total tackles, including 27 solo.
The bright lights and accolades haven’t changed Devin or his values. He loves Louisiana, his family, his horses and his community work.
We recently caught up with Devin to discuss joining Jordan Brand, his favorite sneakers, his leadership and more. Welcome to the Family, Devin.
What does it feel like to be part of the Jordan Brand family?
Man, it’s surreal. This is something that’s been on my mind for a long time. I share the same birthday as Michael Jordan. Growing up, I was always getting blessed with Jordans; my mom always had me laced. It’s a blessing to be the athlete I am today, knowing the work I put in to get here, to be a part of something so magnificent.
As a kid, you were on a losing team, and you actually quit football at one point to focus on basketball. What did you love about basketball? And why did you switch from basketball back to football?
The thing is, my mom played basketball. She was really good at it. Everybody thought I’d be the next great basketball player because both my mom and dad were talented. I was so naturally athletic. I could dunk at an early age. In sixth grade, I could do everything. I was always the best player on every team I played on. I played AAU, and I played for travel ball teams — the top teams in our area. I got flown out by teams at a young age. I thought it was my calling.
As I got older, I realized that basketball wasn’t for me. I still love the game. I love how you can see fans’ faces when you’re out there turning up, making shots. You can see their reactions, see your mom in the stands. It was always fun for me.
Some of your childhood workouts included pulling sleds in the dirt, benching out in the yard and doing curls in the living room. Now, you have access to any type of workout equipment. What are your favorite workouts?
When I got to college, we started doing Olympic lifts, which include your power clean, hang cleans and all of that. I like the basic stuff, the squats, and I implement my own workouts, too. Especially in the off-season, being in Louisiana, I take care of my horses. I’m out there carrying 50-pound bags of feed. I’m putting hay in the barn. I’m probably the only one in the league doing that kind of workout. I like to implement my country roots into my football.
You’re vocal about your love of horses. You’ve ridden into stadiums, including with the Super Bowl trophy. How has horseback riding contributed to your happiness and wellbeing?
I’m from a small town called Cotton Valley, Louisiana. There are less than a thousand people in my town. Where I’m from, instead of getting your first bike, you want a horse. You see people riding horses through town all the time. You just gravitate to horses. When you get one, it teaches you responsibility. You grow a love for something that you have to care for. You have to make sure it eats. You have to clean up after it. You have to give it fresh water.
I like to tell people that horses are useful. You get on their back, and they do all the work for you. You can go on long, peaceful rides. You don’t need anybody with you, just you and your horse. The minute that I leave the football field, I’m checking on the horses. I love it. I’ve been doing it since I was five years old, and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet.
Wearing the Captain patch is a major honor and an accomplishment. What does that position mean to you, and how does a good captain lead the way?
It means the world to me. A lot of guys might take it for granted, but I don’t. I always wanted to be captain. I bring something extra to the team as a leader; that’s just naturally in me. I wanted to be held to a higher standard, to be held accountable by my teammates. They know I won’t let them down. I keep everybody on the right page. I treat everybody the same, from rookies to veterans. I’ve been reading books about how to be a better leader, too. I try to grow every year.
In your first year, you were the first rookie in Bucs history to have an interception, fumble recovery and touchdown in the same game. How did you become so versatile, and how do you use that to your advantage?
Growing up, I was always bigger than everybody, even though everyone around me was country-fed. I played receiver, running back and quarterback. I already had the skill set for what to do when the ball gets in my hand. So I just tried to improve on those things. When I got to high school, I was a linebacker, but I had to play running back so we could win games. I just wanted to win, so I played a lot more running back than linebacker. When I got to college, I made the decision because I started getting recruited as both. I told my coaches that I wanted to be on defense. Playing all types of sports and positions helped me become a great athlete.
You aren’t afraid to talk spicy to your opponents. What’s your strategy for how you treat the other team on the field?
I go into the game knowing that whatever I say on the field, I have to back it up. That makes me want to talk trash because I know I have to back it up. It depends on who we’re playing, how they attack people and who gets the ball the most. I always keep it 100. I like to let the star of the other team know that I’m going to be here all night — that I’m making plays on them, as well. I can play well because I don’t have feelings out there on the field. You can’t make me mad. We’re just going to be going at each other.
What are your favorite Air Jordans and why? Any memories of first getting them when you were young?
Man, I remember having every one of them. Every time a special Air Jordan came out, I’d get them. My favorite has always been the AJ11s and AJ1s. They make my feet feel the most swaggy. I wore Jordans when I played basketball in high school. I had the Melos, too. I have a bunch of Jordans at home, so I’m going to be rocking them throughout the season. If I look good, I play good.
What are you looking forward to rocking when you get your Air Jordan cleats?
We did a Chunky Dunk PE, those are gonna be crazy. They’re like the Chunky Dunk Nike SB shoe that came out. Everybody wanted them, and nobody could get them. The team came up with a black and white concept which looks phenomenal. It has a country boy vibe with the cow print. That’s the cleat I’m most looking forward to rocking this year.
There is a certain swagger that comes with being a Jordan Brand athlete. How would you describe that?
The swagger is second to none. You’re not going to see that many pairs of Jordans on the field. Some teams have no Jordan athletes on the field. It’s exclusive. To see Jordan Brand put MJ’s footwear on the gridiron is dope, man. You couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s swagger through the roof!
It’s just got to be in you, it can’t be on you. That’s something Jordan Brand does really well; they pick the right players to represent the brand. I’m so thankful to be one of those players because it’s in me. It’s always been in me. This year, I have an even greater sense of urgency and swagger about myself. Knowing that I’m rocking the best feels like I can rock the whole entire league.
Did you watch The Last Dance at all?
Come on, man! The Last Dance is probably one of the reasons why I won the Super Bowl this year. I had that mindset, as far as training and stuff this year. That’s gotta be my favorite documentary. Watching that, as an athlete, made me want to go outside and turn up.
So obviously, you put in that work, and it led to a Super Bowl victory. Describe that feeling. What was it like to win a Super Bowl and hoist that trophy up?
Man, the feeling was great. Of course, it didn’t all pan out right away. We lost the first game of the season, then we won. Then we lost. Nothing was consistent. That put a lot more pressure on us to get the job done. Once we clicked, we clicked.
When we got into the playoffs, obviously I missed the first game. I think that made me rise up even more. Our mindset was Super Bowl or bust.
Winning was just overwhelming. It was overwhelming to prove a lot of people wrong. It felt so good to win in the fashion that we won. That was one of the best times in my life — the whole playoff run. Something significant happened in each game for us, to win the way we did. I think we just straight up dominated it.
Jordan Brand has committed to a mission of “action over words” when it comes to supporting the Black community. You’re known for visiting with kids after games and helping your community. Why is giving back important to you?
That’s easy. It’s important to me because I used to be that same kid who wished pro athletes would come around and acknowledge us, to let us know they care. Where I’m from, we never had that. I always knew I’d go back and do this work once I made it.
At the end of the day, we have a huge platform, and I feel like God blessed us to bless others. I can’t take it all with me, so why not help somebody else? That’s just my motto, and my family believes in it, too. I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life.