ATLANTA -- When he leaves Georgia Tech, D.J. White probably won’t have to buy another meal in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets fans and alumni should keep him well fed for many, many years.
Last year, White made the biggest clutch play of the year for Georgia Tech. He jumped a route and intercepted a Hutson Mason pass at the 9-yard line in overtime to give the Yellow Jackets a long-awaiting victory over Georgia. It ended a five-year losing streak to the Bulldogs.
It’s a play that will be shown over and over on the big screen at Bobby Dodd Stadium, right after Roddy Jones’ long run that beat the Bulldogs in 2008, and will no doubt cause a roar of approval in response.
“At the end, D.J. makes another great play,” head coach Paul Johnson said after last year’s game.
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That was just one of many big plays recorded a year ago by White, who started every game and was named honorable mention All-ACC. He tied Jamal Golden for the team lead with four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, and led the team with eight pass breakups.
“For me, I just try to be that guy who makes plays,” White said. “If I can make the play, get the ball back to the offense, it gives our guys more chances to score more points and win the game.”
White personifies the definition of a “hustle play.” He never gives up on a play and always seems to be in the right place. He opened eyes midway through the season when he ran down Pittsburgh tailback James Conner and stripped the ball away at the goal line at the end of a 75-yard run. That prevented the tying touchdown and turned the momentum toward the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech went on to win that game 56-28.
“(Defensive coordinator Ted) Roof has been preaching the takeaways since the day he stepped on the campus at Georgia Tech,” White said. “In practice, we do what we call a takeaway drill. At the same time, you have guys that are ball hawks. That’s something they have in them. That’s probably the key to that.”
If you’re putting players in the “ball hawk” category, go ahead and drop White in the mix. He had an interception against Clemson, a pick-six against N.C. State and the interception that set up the game-winning drive at Virginia Tech. He had four tackles and three breakups in the team’s Orange Bowl win.
He wound up with 66 tackles, including 52 solo stops and 2.5 tackles for loss last season.
White, a 5-foot-11, 188-pound senior, was an all-state player at Union Grove in McDonough. He played the final 10 games of the 2012 season as a true freshman at Georgia Tech and played all 13 games in 2013, starting nine times. He had a career-high 13 tackles, forced two fumbles and had an interception against Mississippi in the Music City Bowl that season.
“Anything I can do to help the team, whether it be coming in and making a tackle, making a big pick, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You need anything you can get.”