Throughout the years, the South Mecklenburg High Booster Club has become known for its strong turnout during fundraising efforts. And on April 21, during a pancake breakfast fundraiser, scores of Sabre supporters walked through the doors of the Applebee’s on Piper Station Drive with broad smiles.
And it wasn’t because they were happy to be up early on a Saturday morning.
In addition to raising money for the athletic program, South Meck students and parents arrived to welcome newly hired football coach Rocky White to the fold.
White was named to the position only a day earlier, but he felt it was important to attend the fundraiser to get to know some of his future players and their parents, and also show the community, as a whole, that he’s thrilled to be the Sabres’ coach.
“A day like this is important because I talked with all the kids (on April 20) and all the (assistant) coaches, and I saw all the support of the parents and all the kids working hard – that’s the kind of stuff you want to be involved with,” White said. “Believe me, I’ve been at places where you had to create excitement and you had to beg people to come get involved, so it’s nice to go to a place where you have stuff going on.
“I’ve always thought South Mecklenburg should be one of the premiere coaching positions in the state. They’ve got great facilities, a great booster club, a great history, and the principal and the administration is outstanding. I’m tremendously excited to have the opportunity.”
Fans and athletes were just as giddy about spending time with White.
“Meeting him for the first time, he definitely brings a great presence as a head coach, and I feel he’s going to be a great fit for our program,” said rising senior quarterback Alex Adams. “He’s really excited about it. I can tell he’s got the desire to win as much as we do.
“Seeing him out here at (fundraisers) like this a day after getting the job, you can tell he’s focused on getting in the community and working with the community to support the team.”
Added rising senior lineman Danny Gonzalez Jr.: “I like what I heard when we had our first meeting. He seems like he has our best interest at heart. I’m looking forward to what he has in store for us.”
The 51-year-old White arrives at South Meck after spending last season as an assistant with Butler’s nationally recognized program and the three previous years as defensive coordinator at Lexington (S.C.) High. Before that, he was head coach at West Meck, where he compiled a 24-35 record over five seasons.
“But I was 8-0 as Butler’s JV coach last year,” said White, a former University of North Carolina player and the son of famed Olympic High coach Joe White.
“Then again,” he joked, “you could’ve propped up a broom and gone 8-0 there.”
Throughout his career, however, White’s become known as a highly respected coach who gets the most from players. For example, in his first season at West Meck, his squad went 1-10. The next season, the Hawks were 8-3. In all, he had two eight-win seasons at West Meck. The school has won eight games only five other times in its history.
At South Meck, White replaces James Martin, who left to become defensive coordinator at Rock Hill Northwestern. White said he has 50 players returning from South Meck’s varsity and JV teams, and one of them is rising senior lineman Brandon Floyd, who already has a scholarship offer from East Carolina and also is receiving interest from North Carolina, Duke, Tennessee, Wake Forest, the Charlotte 49ers and Appalachian State.
“We’re putting our trust in Coach White,” Floyd said. “He seems like a good guy who’s going to do something good with the program. I think we’re going to improve. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Sabres were 4-8 last season under Martin, who was known for employing a Wing-T offense. Some South Meck fans were open about their desire to see the Sabres pass the ball more frequently. And while White expressed his respect for what Martin did to improve the South Meck program, expect to see a different type of attack next season.
“I want us to be diverse,” White said. “I don’t want us to be one-dimensional. I want to give our guys some artillery to be involved in the battle, so we’re going to throw it around a little more probably than we’ve done in the past. I’d like to be 50-50, but I don’t think we can do that right off the bat. But we’ll be fun to watch.
“I look at it this way: If I was a young person, I wouldn’t want to run the ball 3 yards and a cloud of dust a hundred times a game. I like to have a little fun out there.”
White said he hasn’t had a chance to assemble his coaching staff but ultimately hopes to bring his son, soon-to-be N.C. State University graduate Houston White, aboard. Many current South Meck assistant coaches also could stay on board.
Another early order of business for White is buying a home in Charlotte, and he plans on leaning on his sister, Kim Overman, a local realtor. Last year, White commuted to Matthews from Lexington, where his wife, Anita, remained. He won’t do that now that he’s the new face of South Meck football.
“I don’t know whether I’m going to retire or die first, but I’m planning on being here the rest of my career,” he said. “I think we can get some good things done here. I really do.