COLUMBIA — He could have quit. After missing his first four field goal attempts in 2017, Parker White could have gone back to the cheerfully anonymous life he led as a South Carolina freshman the previous year, a regular student whose Twitter wouldn’t explode every time he had the temerity to miss a kick.
He felt he couldn’t. One, he knew it was in him to be the guy coach Will Muschamp and his Gamecocks teammates wanted and needed him to be.
Two, it’s kicker mentality. Miss one, there will always be another. And that one’s going to be good.
“It’s tough to put it into one little sentence,” he said when asked how he would sum up his career. “I will say I fought through a lot of the bad early in my career, some of the boos, but just kept my head down, got to work and said, ‘I can turn this thing around.’
“I’m a good kicker, I’m confident in myself and I just need to go out there and keep making kicks and eventually it will get turned around and change my reputation a little bit.”
He never paid attention to his failures, and he takes the same approach to his success. Yet the numbers don’t lie — after connecting on both of his attempts in the Gamecocks’ season-opener last week, White has quietly put together a string of 12 consecutive field goals. It’s the fourth-longest active streak in the country and only three away from tying the record held by program legend Collin Mackie.
“Am I really?” he queried. “That’s pretty cool. I saw that someone tagged me in a Tweet that it was 12. I knew I had made a few, but I wasn’t really exactly sure what it was. But yeah, that’s pretty cool, excited to go down to Gainesville and hopefully make some kicks.”
The Gamecocks play at No. 3 Florida on Saturday (noon, ESPN).
South Carolina’s Parker White celebrates with his mother, Jennifer Howe, and sister Peighton following his game-winning kick against Missouri in 2018. Provided/Ryan Bethea
White is able to joke now after that humble beginning. It helps that he has five game-winning field goals under his belt.
He graduated in May and under normal circumstances this season would be White’s last, but COVID-19 has gifted him another year of eligibility if he wants to use it. The decision hasn’t been made but there’s definitely an impetus to stay — averaging 77 points per season, White could easily smash USC’s career mark for points scored and challenge for records in field goal attempts and makes.
“At home in Charleston, I was kicking a lot with Elliott Fry,” the former Wando High standout said of his summer. “I sent him a joking text message as soon as the NCAA made their rule that you could come back. I just texted him and said, ‘Congratulations, I just beat your record.’ We’ll see how that shakes out, but he got a kick out of it, I think.”
His work with former Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Jeff Reed and USC great/current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Ryan Succop has paid dividends. White, inconsistent as a redshirt freshman, is now nearly automatic from 49 yards in. There’s been plenty of talk about why Muschamp decided to kick a field goal against Tennessee while trailing by seven points with 3:16 to play last week, but none about whether or not White could make it.
His 45-yarder was right down the middle.
“Had a rough start but I’m really proud of him, continuing to persevere and fight through it. After his first season, he committed himself from a technical standpoint, really worked extremely hard to put himself in the position he’s in now,” Muschamp said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him to go make kicks.”
It matches the confidence White found in himself.
Campbell Trophy semifinalist
White is also a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, given to the nation’s top football scholar-athlete. He has a chance to win an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship as one of 12-14 finalists and a $25,000 scholarship if he wins the prize.
Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.