Antoine White will graduate Millville High School in December.
White, one of the state’s best defensive lineman, will enroll in January at Penn State, where he will play on a scholarship.
The early graduation will allow Miller to participate in Penn State’s spring practices and get a head start on his collegiate career.
His decision to leave Millville early means White can't afford to waste even one second of one day this fall. The final days of his high school life begin at 6 a.m. — sometimes earlier — and end when he finishes his homework after 11 p.m.
“It hits me more and more each day,” White said. “Everything is going fast. Each week is a grind and each week is one week closer to the end.”
But White still has several big high school games to which he can look forward. Millville (2-0) plays at St. Joseph (1-1) on Saturday at noon in a matchup of Cape-Atlantic League American Conference contenders with high playoff aspirations. Millville is ranked No. 6 in The Press Elite 11, while St. Joe is No. 8.
The 6-foot-3, 270-pound White seems determined to make the most of his opportunity to play high school and college football because he knows how precarious life can be.
White grew up in Philadelphia and lived in several foster homes until his parents Corey and Stacey White adopted him when he was 5.
“The odds are against (children with that background),” White said. “I don’t want to be another statistic. It was a struggle when I was younger, but my parents did a great job of changing my future for the better.”
Corey and Stacey adopted Antoine through the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services.
“We knew (from) Day One when we first met Antoine that he was going to be our boy,” Corey said.
Corey said Antoine quickly matured. By the time he was 10, White would get up on his own for school and make his own breakfast.
“He was a go-getter,” Corey said.
He still is. There’s no questioning White’s motivation to achieve his goals. He doesn’t have too much free time. He apologized to a reporter this week for not returning a phone call because by the time he checked his messages it was after 11 p.m.
White gets up at 6 a.m. most mornings. Two days a week he rises at 5:30 a.m. to lift weights before school. There’s football practice after school until 5:30 p.m. He then works most nights as a chef at Taste of Italy Pizzeria in Vineland, where he cooks a delicious buffalo chicken pizza. Most of the money he makes he saves for college.
After work, White studies and does his homework.
“He has such a positive attitude about everything,” Millville coach Jason Durham said. “I think that helps to keep him up and alert. He’s such a driven kid. He knew he wanted to play big-time college football from the beginning (of high school).”
White established himself as one of the state’s top college prospects with a junior season in which he made 80 tackles, including 14 for a loss.
Fifteen Football Bowl Subdivision colleges offered him scholarships. White verbally committed to Penn State in July and decided shortly afterward to graduate from Millville early. White said Penn State coaches first broached the subject with him.
“At first, I didn’t think too much about it,” White said. “But then I started thinking. They’re going to sign two defensive tackles (to scholarships). This is what their depth chart looks like. Leaving high school early will put me six months ahead and give me a chance to be out on my own.”
White discussed the decision with his parents, high school coaches and teachers. He talked with Penn State players who had made similar decisions. White could easily handle it academically. He had completed nearly all of his high school graduation requirements by the end of his junior year.
“This puts me in a great position to get the ball rolling,” he said.
Even though he will be at Penn State, White plans to attend the spring high school events that most seniors would never miss, such as the prom and the graduation ceremony.
But because of his early graduation, White knows that opportunities like Saturday’s game are dwindling for him. The winner will stay in contention for a conference title. Both teams should contend for playoff championships. St. Joe is the favorite in state Non-Public I, while Millville is among the top teams in South Jersey Group V.
The Millville sports community is known for Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout and the town's long-standing devotion to its high school football team.
“It’s a football-oriented town,” White said. “I do realize it’s coming to an end. I want to give the town what they want and repay our coaches and repay ourselves for all the hard work we’ve done.”
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