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Alum Finneran Takes Pride in White's Growth

Atlanta Falcons Minicamp, built by The Home Depot, came to a close on Thursday after three days of workouts in the Georgia heat. Fans came to Flowery Branch for one more look at the team.

As one of the longest-tenured Falcons, Roddy White has had the opportunity to mentor plenty of his fellow receivers. Julio Jones, now a bona fide superstar, frequently credits White for helping him learn the ropes; so do players like Harry Douglas, Eric Weems and, after spending a minicamp together, rookie Justin Hardy.

"I wouldn't be the person I am today without Roddy White," Jones said. "He's helped teach me how to be a man … We just feed off each other. I mean, it's like my brother being out there playing with me."

White's guidance signifies a momentous evolution on and (mostly) off the field. It's no secret he needed an attitude adjustment upon entering the NFL in 2005. Now, the Roddy of Old is long gone. In his place is an impressive leader.

And, while many have witnessed this transformation first-hand, few have had a better perspective than former wideout Brian Finneran.

A veteran Falcon when White came aboard, Finneran understood what's required to make it in the pro ranks. Hours upon hours in the film room. Proper conditioning. A winning mentality. The ability to take criticism, individual setbacks and losing in stride.

Although Finneran immediately noticed White's undeniable talent, he also knew the young athlete's mindset needed correcting. One day, to help push his teammate in the right direction, Finneran — then nearing retirement — bet White he wouldn't last a decade in the league.

White took the wager to heart. It's impossible to quantify the agreement's effect, but it certainly didn't hurt: The following season he amassed the second-most receiving yards in the league and, in the process, displayed a reformed mindset. Gone were the red flags.

"It was me trying to give him that drive," said Finneran, "because deep down I knew he could do it. To be here from Day 1 with Roddy and to see the way he was — which wasn't great — and to see the leader and player he's become has been pretty special. I'm really proud of what he's done."

Although Finneran can't recall the specific bet, he officially lost in 2014. Not only did White reach the 10-year plateau; he rebounded from a difficult and injury-plagued 2013 by tallying 921 receiving yards and a team-high seven touchdown catches.

Longtime veteran wide receiver Roddy White had seven touchdowns throughout the 2014 season. Look back at his best photos of 2014.

To put up those numbers at 33 is no small feat. Consider Pro Football Focus' age curve study: During the modern era, WRs often experience a sharp decline in production during their Age 33 campaigns. White, however, proved to be an exception — in large part because of the support system that led him down the right path.

"By the time I left, Roddy was watching more tape than anybody in this building," Finneran said. "He just learned as he went and gained more experience. Two and a half, three years in the league, he had it just about figured out. And when he did, you've seen what he's done. He's been special.

"You become a fan for guys like that who just keep performing. He's one of my favorite players to watch play and you know when he steps on the field, he gives it his all."

White's growth has been crucial for the Falcons, but it didn't occur overnight. Atlanta drafted him in 2005, and as recently as 2008 — when WR coach Terry Robiskie had a personal tiff with his disciple after practice — lingering issues were palpable.

Gradually, the first round pick from UAB developed into the man he is today. And by doing so, he's created a ripple effect that will be felt within the organization long after he hangs up the cleats.

"It's been fun to see Roddy continue to get better every year and to do the things he's done to become the best receiver in Falcons history," said Finneran. "It makes you feel a bit like a proud father."

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