Nobody did it better than E.J. White.
The fifth-year senior quarterback at St. Francis will go down as the finest player the Saints have ever known. And, he ended his career as one of the most prolific offensive players in the 68-year history of NAIA football.
In his final game as a Saint, White threw for 323 yards and rushed for 79 to give him 402 yards of total offense in a 30-20 home loss to Taylor. He finished his career with 12,980 yards of total offense, third in NAIA annals.
“It hurts (to see him leave),” Saints coach Joe Curry said. “He deserved more this year, but it’s a team game. I feel bad for E.J. and all the seniors because they wanted a lot more.”
White is the Saints’ career leader in passing yards (10,053), rushing yards (2,927), passing touchdowns (103) and completions (844). He holds season records of 3,344 passing yards (in 2013), 34 passing touchdowns (in 2011) and 268 completions (in 2013).
He set the single-game passing record of 429 yards in the season opener against Olivet Nazarene. He threw for a school-best six touchdowns twice this season.
He started all 46 games during his career, leading the program to a 30-16 record, its best four-year mark in the 26 years of Saints football. In 2011, he commandeered the Saints to their first NAIA win and spot in the quarterfinals.
“We’re proud of what we accomplished here,” White said. “We know the history of this program. It had a rough edge. For us to come in here and win 30 games in four years is great. Our legacy is going to help build this program through the underclassmen.”
The program has come a long way since White walked through the doors as a freshman five years ago.
“The biggest changes here are confidence and love of the game,” White said. “When I came here, guys were on scholarship and playing football. Now, we expect to win conference championships. We expect guys to put in the extra time to get better. It’s a whole new program now.”
Although the program says goodbye to White and seven other senior regulars, the Saints could return 15 underclassmen starters from a 7-4 campaign. That bodes well for the future.
“We lose our gunslinger and some production on the offensive side of the ball, but I’m excited what we have coming back next year,” Curry said. “I think it’s encouraging, because we have a lot of young guys committed to the program. They can’t wait for their chance to shine.”
White, too, sees good days ahead for the program.
“We have a huge freshmen class; a lot of them saw playing time this year, were forced into the fire and they responded,” White said. “They were into the game, and they have the drive. In the offseason, I expect them to be in the weight room every day and watching film, trying to get better.
“There were only eight of us seniors, so these underclassmen are going to keep on winning if they work just as hard as they did this year.”