Norman White didn't mind that he had only one catch for 4 yards in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Saturday.
The week of practice leading up to the invitation-only game was more important, and White said he believes he helped his stock for this April's NFL draft.
"Everyone was saying the practices are way more important than the game," White, an Egg Harbor Township resident, said in a phone interview Monday. "The game was just for us to go out and have fun. There were a lot of scouts there the first two days of practice. … The coaches said I did a good job, even during the game."
White, a 23-year-old wide receiver from Egg Harbor Township, said he didn't get many opportunities during the game because it was a blowout - his National team beat the American squad 34-0 at the home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The game was the culmination of an interesting week for White, a St. Joseph High School graduate who is on track to graduate from Villanova this spring with a double major in criminal justice and sociology.
White was invited to the game last Monday morning and flew to Los Angeles that day.
Once there, he met his National team coaches, including head coach Dick Vermeil and outside receivers coach Isaac Bruce. Vermeil, of course, coached the Philadelphia Eagles from 1976-82 and won the Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams after the 1999 season. Bruce was on that 1999 team.
"It was really cool," White said. "I was an Isaac Bruce fan growing up, watching him and Torry Holt when they played for the Rams. I was kind of star-struck the first day, but then you get used to them. You're with them every day."
White said he worked extensively with Bruce, learning what NFL teams look for from receivers.
"He was on me all week of practice, telling me what to do and what not to do in certain situations and stuff like that," White said.
White's agent, Casey Muir, said there were roughly 75-100 NFL scouts in attendance over the course of the week. The game featured players from schools such as Notre Dame, Penn State and Rutgers in addition to smaller schools such as Villanova.
"It's extremely important, him having the opportunity to go out there and get that additional exposure," Muir said.
Much of what White learned also can be applied to his workouts over the next two months as he prepares for Villanova's pro day, when NFL scouts will be invited to watch him and four other Wildcats seniors work out. That date has not yet been set, but Muir said it will be in mid-March. White said he also hopes to attend pro days at Temple and Penn.
Last week's practices and the upcoming pro days will be particularly important for White, more so than for many other draft prospects.
White had a team-high 45 catches for 550 yards and six touchdowns as the Wildcats (8-4) finished the season ranked 15th in The Sports Network's Football Championship Subdivision poll.
But his numbers were somewhat disappointing after he had been named a preseason second-team All-American by TSN. Knee and shoulder injuries caused him to miss one game and hampered him for most of the season. Muir said Villanova's run-based offense also didn't help White.
"I really didn't have the type of year I thought I was going to have this year stat-wise," White said. "But it happens. So I've just got to go out, show them I can run the 40, show them I can do the three-cone drill, show them I can run a little bit and also catch the ball during this whole process."
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound White said he hopes to get his 40-yard dash time below 4.5 seconds. Muir has had him working out twice a week at Parisi Speed School in Downingtown, Pa., with that in mind.
White likely faces an uphill battle to get drafted. ESPN.com ranks him as the 152nd-best wide receiver in the draft.
But the fact that he was invited to the NFLPA game shows he is on scouts' radar, so he should be able to at least earn an invitation to an NFL training camp as an undrafted free agent. And the next few months are crucial, as White will have opportunities to increase his stock.
"I'm really looking forward to it," White said. "Obviously there's going to be a lot of pressure. There's going to be a lot of scouts (at the pro days). But you've got to learn to just block them out and just go out and run. You do it every day. You've got to show them that you can do it in front of them as well."
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