Last week, Defector helpfully broke the news that the Jets’ backup quarterback was a guy named Mike White. It’s almost like we had some inside information that he was about to catapult to, if not stardom, temporary relevancy. (We did not have inside information.) One late hit on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson did the trick: Mike White is no longer a name mostly associated with the writer of classic films like School of Rock, The Emoji Movie, and Pitch Perfect 3. No, the name Mike White will now represent, first and foremost, the guy making his first career NFL start this Sunday for the 1-5 Jets against the surging 5-2 Bengals. It’s finally time to learn more about Mike White. Who is he? What makes him tick?
White is 26 years old and hails from Pembroke Pines, Florida, a suburb of Miami. He is not yet listed on Wikipedia’s list of notable people from Pembroke Pines. White did not become a starter at quarterback until his senior season of high school football, when he led his team to the 3A state championship. Then, he took his newfound talents to the University of South Florida, where he started five games as a true freshman but did not play well at all, throwing for three touchdowns and nine interceptions.
He struggled again as a sophomore and then transferred to Western Kentucky, where he sat out the 2015 season and then became Conference USA’s newcomer of the year after averaging 10.5 yards per attempt and piloting the top-scoring offense in the FBS. 2016 was White’s peak, his glory days in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He and the Hilltoppers won the 2016 C-USA championship and beat Memphis in the prestigious Boca Raton bowl.
That year, White’s throwing skills were described by his personal quarterback coach Ken Mastrole as “a first-round pick style of NFL arm.”
Alas, NFL scouts thought White had a fifth-round pick style of arm, as that’s where the Dallas Cowboys drafted him in 2018. He was the eighth quarterback taken that year, behind Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph, and Kyle Lauletta. He made the Cowboys’ roster as the third-string quarterback in 2018, but was waived the following season with Dallas instead signing Northwestern’s own Clayton Thorson.
That’s where White’s Jets chapter begins. He joined New York’s practice squad that September, and then bounced up and down between the p-squad and the active roster in 2020, behind Joe Flacco on the depth chart. In 2021, White earned the backup job behind the No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, beating out Florida International product James Morgan and veteran journeyman Josh Johnson, who is now on the Jets’ practice squad
On Sunday, White saw his first meaningful action for the Jets, after Wilson took two hard hits in the second quarter, both of which probably qualify as roughing the passer under today’s standards and neither of which were called as penalties. On the second hit Wilson twisted his knee, and the latest reports say he will be out 2–4 weeks with a sprained PCL. Enter Mike White.
When White took over, he immediately led the Jets on a touchdown drive. He finished 20-of-32 for 202 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked once for a loss of eight yards. He did OK. But the Jets still lost big to the Patriots, so the very next day, the team traded a conditional sixth-round pick—basically nothing—to Philadelphia for Flacco, who was literally just here! Standing between Mike White and his first clipboard!
Luckily for White, Flacco was not at practice on Wednesday, and head coach Robert Saleh told reporters Wednesday that Flacco was excused for a personal reason that the Jets knew about before making the trade. He won’t report to the facility until Friday and might be inactive for Sunday’s game, hence White getting the start. Saleh has not committed to White as the starter past this week, but personally, I see a real window of opportunity here for our guy to stake his claim and surpass the other Mike White in Wikipedia priority.
You can find Mike White on Instagram at @mikewhiteqb, the “qb” a helpful identifier to make sure you know you’ve got the right Mike White. There, he gives out helpful advice like, “Marry your best friend, trust me” and posts cute photo of his baby twins, Millie and Maddox. He even made a pretty good football joke in announcing he was having twins: “Going for two > Kicking a FG.” Mike White is kinda funny!
Now you know Mike White. If you’re worried you might become too familiar with Mike White this season, don’t be. Zach Wilson’s “longtime college buddy” says he will return from this knee injury better than ever.