To Hail and back: Kevin White hopes he ‘opened a couple eyes’ with 54-yard catch

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Bears WR Kevin White nearly scored on a Hail Mary against the Patriots. | David Banks/Associated Press

The biggest play of Kevin White’s four seasons with the Bears was also another cruel twist in the star-crossed career of the former first-round draft pick. His 54-yard catch of a Hail Mary pass from Mitch Trubisky on the final play of the game against the Patriots on Sunday came up one yard short.

Ugh.

“Out of my control,” White said Thursday when asked if that outcome was all too typical of his snakebitten career. “I just do what I can, go up and make a catch. If I fall short, I fall short. Roll with the punches. [I] don’t harp on stuff like that any more. Kind of do my own thing.”

That in itself is progress for White, who has endured a lot of frustration since being the seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft. He played five games in three seasons because of injuries — a stress fracture as a rookie, a broken fibula in 2016 and a fractured shoulder blade last season.

There’s no telling what’s next for White — if the big catch creates more opportunities Sunday against the Jets, or leaves him behind Josh Bellamy in the wide receiving pecking order. But those years of working through his disappointment have conditioned him to just make sure he’s ready whenever the next opportunity comes. He’s learned some tough lessons about life in the NFL.

“Yeah, it taught me a lot to stay mentally strong, block the noise; it made me stronger, made me want it a little more,” White said. “I feel like sometimes when players get in this league, you know you have the money, the fame; you have things that you want — or wanted when you were younger. So you kind of gotta realign your why.”

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Bears coach Matt Nagy appreciates White’s positive attitude, his perseverance and his run-blocking — “maybe the best on our team [at] the wide receiver position,” Nagy said. But it sounds like the stars are still going to have to align for White to get a bigger chance.

Considering how his career has gone so far, circumstance is a tough thing to count on. But nobody deserves fate to move its huge hands in his favor like White. The game against the Patriots was notable not only for his two receptions for career-high 64 yards, but also it was his sixth game of 2018, more than he had played in the previous three seasons. That’s a start.

White has played 85 offensive snaps this season. But he had not been targeted until Trubisky threw a 10-yard completion to him with less than five minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

“It felt good. Natural. Normal,” White said, when asked about finally contributing with pass receptions instead of just blocking. “Maybe opened a couple eyes, hopefully. If not, just do my job.”

White was in on the Hail Mary play because Allen Robinson aggravated a groin injury. If Robinson can’t play Sunday against the Jets, it might provide White with more snaps. Or it might not.

“We have a bunch of good players on this team. He’s one of them,” Nagy said. “Depending on what personnel you’re in in the offense, you only have a certain amount of wide receivers. But he’s been patient and selfless, which I like. And he’s going to continue to get opportunities.”

White has been given no indication one way or the other, based on meetings and Wednesday’s practice.

“I guess we’ll see Sunday,” he said. “[In] practice, everybody kind of gets the ball and draw up certain plays. But it all depends on Sunday. I guess we’ll have to see.”

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