White takes center stage at UGA graduation ceremony

ATHENS -- Aron White knows that in the eyes of the public, this hasn’t been the best year for Georgia football players. In a small way, he hopes to make a better impression Friday.

White will be the student commencement speaker at graduation ceremonies at Georgia. It’s a rare feat for an athlete and a hard one for any student: White was chosen after a process that included interviews and written applications.

The tight end is well aware of what fellow students have been saying and writing this year, when 11 different football players have been arrested. Never mind the 6-6 record on the field. So White was up front that he hoped his speech would be a chance to reverse some of that.

“I think our reputation has suffered the last couple of years, and we haven’t had the best showing to the public,” he said on Wednesday. “I want people to know the good things we do and show the positive headlines. That’s one of my goals, to be proactive instead of reactive as far as the perception of our team.”

If White has his way, it also won’t be the final time he gives a speech in front of college students. One day, he hopes to give one after being introduced as the athletics director at a major college -- preferably Georgia.

The Missouri native has been pointed in that direction for some time. He used to consult with former athletics director Damon Evans, and has spoken with Greg McGarity since he was hired to replace Evans in August.

“That’s my end goal. I know there’s a lot of stepping stones that come before that, and you’ve kind of got to start at the bottom,” White said. “But yeah, hopefully, maybe one day I’ll be sitting at the top of UGA and take over. That’d be a dream job.”

It’s no surprise that White would have those kinds of goals. The loquacious player is easily the best interview on Georgia’s team. In fact, after each arrest this season, White has been front and center to act as team spokesman, his comments blending disappointment and tough love.

On the field, White hasn’t had the greatest year -- nine catches for 125 yards and no touchdowns. That’s down from his sophomore season, when he started all but one game and had four touchdowns.

Still, he hasn’t given up on a possible pro career at some point, and with his size (6-foot-4, 242 pounds), he could get a look. He also hasn’t ruled out becoming a coach, although he worries that job has less stability.

“I feel like I’m more of a very people-oriented person. I think I thrive off relationships, and more light-hearted with people,” White said. “I don’t feel like I need to be the guy that’s screaming his throat at somebody, and having to worry about the ‘W’ here and the loss here. I think I’d be much more suited to the nice guy, not the guy that has to yell and everything like that.”

That career track could start with Friday’s speech.

“He is taking it very, very seriously,” head coach Mark Richt said. “He has come by and talked to me about it. He e-mailed me a copy of it, I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but he has it down pretty good. He’s knows is a tremendous honor.