Mike White is 18 years old. The hopes and prayers of an entire campus, fan base, and university community have just come crashing down on his shoulders. The employment of many adults is now closely tied to his success at a game for which he is not compensated in any way that could ever be considered just. The financial success of the athletic department for which he performs is now highly correlated to how he performs as an amateur. An entire community no longer seems him as a lanky teenager with a big arm; they see him as a beacon of hope. This is not fair, right, or rational in any manner.
Mike White is now the most important USF student on campus. He is receiving much deserved praise and love from everyone that saw him perform with calm, confidence, and aplomb last night. At some point, that praise and love will fade away and his every misstep, mechanical breakdown, and millisecond of lapse in judgement that will overanalyzed and beaten to death. He will be trolled by morons on Twitter. Someone will ask him for an autograph in an odd moment, he'll deny them, and then that person will tell 20 other people who will tell 20 other people, and someone will put that on Facebook. And then someone will say Mike White isn't a good person even though that's utterly preposterous and without basis.
This pressure and lack of perspective exists in a vacuum of rationality that has broken many young men before him. Mike White needs to find a core of people he can trust, and keep them close to him. These need to be people with his genuine best interests at heart. He does have Marquel Blackwell to help guide him, and no one understands what it's like to be the biggest man on USF's campus than 'Quel, but Mike White's college experience will never be the same last night. It's possible the rest of his life won't be either. It's far too much to ask of an 18-year old. Anything less than reaching that highest standard someone could have means failure on some level to someone judging him. And that's true even when you win.
But Mike White showed last night that he's no normal 18-year old. He is blessed with a rifle attached to his right shoulder, a mind that reacts quickly to events taking place around him on a football field, and enough athletic ability and sublime touch to put it all together. Now his talents on the field are more confirmed, but his abilities away from it are still totally untested. That's not his fault in anyway, but how he handles the next weeks and months will go a long way to determining the success he'll have over the next 3.5 years or more.
Last night Mike White was a good college quarterback in his first attempt at being one, and that means he becomes not only a leader of USF Football immediately, but also someone on whom many expectations will be placed. He will be expected to improve in all areas on the field where he is not flawless. He will be expected to say and do the perfect thing at the perfect time ad infinitum in his everyday life. He will need to be the best person he can be 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There will be no respite from being Mike White.
He will succeed, and he will fail. But he will never be the same.
Godspeed, Mike White. Your journey has changed forever. We look forward to watching how.