Bob White was happy to pass the torch.
For 34 years, he remained the last player to be selected in the National Football League Draft out of the University of Rhode Island. That honor now belongs to wide receiver Isaiah Coulter, who was picked in the fifth round of the 2020 draft by the Houston Texans on Saturday.
White was glad to hear the news, both for Coulter and for his alma mater.
“I’m glad to have that off my resume,” White said with a laugh.
White only recently learned that he held the distinction. He had watched URI’s Frank Ferrara, Jr., play for the Giants in the early 2000s and Tyler Catalina – a URI player who played his final collegiate season at Georgia – make the Washington Redskins roster. But neither Ferrara nor Catalina were drafted.
“I knew a few guys had played in the NFL and a bunch of guys had ended up in camps from URI, but I had no idea I was the last guy to get drafted,” White said.
White was a standout offensive lineman for some of Rhody’s best all-time teams, helping the Rams to two straight Division I-AA playoff appearances in 1984 and 1985. The 1985 team went 10-3 and won the Yankee Conference title. White was an Associated Press All-American, along with teammates Tom Ehrhardt, Brian Forster and Mike Cassidy.
The draft the following spring was one of the first to be broadcast on ESPN. White and several of his teammates gathered at Ehrhardt’s house to watch. Ehrhardt, the quarterback at the controls of URI’s high-flying offense – who’s still known as the best signal-caller in school history – was projected to be drafted. He wasn’t picked, eventually signing as a free agent with the Jets, but White was selected, in the seventh round by the Jets.
“I really didn’t expect to get drafted at all,” White said. “We expected Tommy to go. It was kind of a surreal moment, especially coming from a small school. It was like, ‘Ok, what does this mean?’ They’re saying, ‘We’re going to get you on an airplane.’ And I’m saying, ‘How does that work?’”
White was released by the Jets but signed with the Cowboys and played four seasons in the NFL with Dallas and the New England Patriots. That career set him up for a more lasting career in the ever-expanding world of digital video solutions for football teams. He managed NFL accounts for Avid Sports – which became Pinnacle and industry leader XOS – from 1998-2011 before becoming the vice president of sales and marketing for 8K Solutions, which works with NFL and major college teams on customizable coaching video systems. One of the company’s products is the cutting-edge virtual walkthrough system.
“As short as my career was in the NFL, what it did for me was it springboarded me into a life career that has involved football, which I’m incredibly grateful for,” White said.
White has kept tabs on his alma mater over the years. He was inducted into URI’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. He was happy to hear of the pro opportunities for Coulter, and for Aaron Parker and Kyle Murphy, who signed as free agents.
“I’ve kind of watched the program from a distance and seen the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations of URI football,” White said. “It’s good to see those guys get an opportunity.”
And he’ll keep rooting for them. What comes next is what really matters.
“Getting drafted is obviously a huge honor, and I really hope all those guys find a way to make a roster. Whether you’re drafted, undrafted, the big part is to get on a team and find a way to contribute. That’s what I really hope for those guys,” he said. “Getting drafted is a big honor, it’s a big day and all that stuff, but the next part is the thing that can really change your life. I hope that happens for all of them.”