Since being drafted in the first round in 2005, WR Roddy White has been a crucial part of the offense for the Atlanta Falcons. With a new extension, his legacy will continue with the team he began with.
As news spread that Roddy White's tenure in Atlanta had drawn to a close, fans began sharing some of their favorite memories of the legendary wide receiver.
For me, one stands out as I look back on his career. Sept. 23, 2007 isn't a particularly noteworthy date in the grand scheme of things—Atlanta fell to 0-3 by losing to Carolina, 27-20—but White did something special that afternoon. He scorched the Panthers' defense, tallying seven receptions, 127 receiving yards and a 69-yard touchdown grab.
After struggling throughout his first two NFL seasons and hearing pundits constantly applying the "bust" label to his name, White showed the world he was capable of being great. It was a turning point for the first-round pick. And it helped propel him to a tremendous campaign: Despite Bobby Petrino's unexpected exit and a revolving door at quarterback, White finished 2007 with 83 catches, 1,202 receiving yards and six TDs.
The following year, his streak of four consecutive Pro Bowl nominations began.
Roddy was a genuine star, but before that breakout performance against Carolina, when dropped passes, immaturity and underwhelming numbers overshadowed his remarkable talent, odds of him meeting expectations appeared low.
White would be the first person to say he needed to grow up back then. He ate a lot of cheeseburgers. He didn't put in extra effort at practice. His route-running was usually the opposite of crisp. Overall, he didn't understand what it took be successful in the NFL.
So many promising athletes have similar origins. They enter this league after a lifetime of hearing how amazing they are, and they believe natural skill alone can take them where they want to go. A minority of those boastful 20-somethings, however, realize the truth—that God-given ability isn't enough—and, after swallowing their pride, become men. Roddy is one of them.
As someone who grew up on the Falcons and entered adulthood as he remade himself, I'll always admire him for that.
White finished his run in Atlanta with 10,863 receiving yards—3,514 more than anyone else in franchise history. His 63 touchdown receptions are the most ever by a Falcon, too, and since 2008, he ranks among the top 10 in the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, starts and touchdown catches.
Roddy was one of the best in the game at his peak and, while so much changed throughout the last 11 years at Flowery Branch, he remained a constant. In this era of free agency and bloated contracts and me-first mindsets, players only spend more than a decade in one city under extremely unique circumstances. But Roddy has always been an extremely unique person—on and off the field.
He was (and remains) a fierce competitor, strong-willed, a true entertainer. Above all, he was loyal to the Falcons.
For that, Atlanta will always be grateful.