For the past 19 years, few analysts have tracked N.C. college football prospects as closely as Deana King for the Rivals national recruiting service.
During that time, King - who runs the ncpreps.com website - has seen some of the best players the state has produced. She said she’s not sure she has seen a better running back than Scotland County senior Zamir White.
White, 6-foot-1 and 222 pounds, is ranked No. 1 at his position nationally by Rivals, and No. 7 overall. He has committed to play for Georgia.
White and Scotland County (1-1) will play at West Mecklenburg (4-0) Friday night at 7. West Mecklenburg is No. 4 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 football poll and No. 4 in the Associated Press N.C. 4A media poll. Scotland County is No. 6.
“Zamir,” King said, “is right up there at the top, if not the best in recent memory. Everybody knows (former Georgia star and current L.A. Ram star) Todd Gurley and that’s the comparison with Zamir that I hear a lot.
“Todd’s a little bit taller and he was a sprinter, a track star. Zamir runs track, too. But, listen, Zamir has it all. I expect him to be one of the best, if not the best (running back), to ever come out of North Carolina.”
White is blessed with a combination of speed, power and balance. He runs precise pass routes and has sure hands. And once he catches the ball, he can run away from defenders, like he did in a season-opening showdown with N.C. 4AA state championship favorite Mallard Creek.
The Mavericks won 28-21 in Laurinburg, but they had to withstand a second-half assault from White, as he tried to rally the Scots from a 21-0 deficit. He touched the ball 12 times and finished with 271 total yards.
In Scotland’s other game this season, White had 13 carries for 112 yards and three scores against Durham Hillside in a 34-21 win.
“He’s an unbelievable football player,” Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri said. “He’s one of those kids who is a game-breaker. We played pretty good defense on him for a little over three quarters and he makes one guy miss and takes it to the house.
“He’s better than what I thought he was. He caught the ball better than I thought. He caught us off guard with the nice catches, and once he gets into the secondary, man, it’s just hard to bring him down.”
King said White’s football feats are only part of the story.
“Off the field, he’s such a genuine kid,” King said, “and humble and always respectful. But he goes on the field and he’s like a warrior. He’s got good speed, good vision and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s a just a perfect-type running back.”
Scotland County coach Richard Bailey said coaching White has been “the experience of a lifetime.”
“It can be daunting at times because it’s so time-consuming,” Bailey said. “But I tell fans it’s not often you get one of the best players in the U.S. at your school, so enjoy it while it’s happening.”
Bailey said White, who was unavailable for this story, is a quiet, humble teammate who has achieved celebrity status in his hometown, about two hours east of uptown Charlotte. Bailey said in preseason, he took some of his players over to a local parks and recreation center to run a football combine and tryout for youth football. The kids were fighting to wear White’s jersey No. 34.
“Ask any 9 year old in Scotland,” Bailey said, “and they know who Zamir White is. They run up to him and hug him and high-five him and take pictures with him.
“Any kid will have his head swollen a little bit with that much attention, but it’s been amazing how humble he’s remained and it’s a credit to him and who’s involved in his life.”
When Bailey asked players to visit a local elementary school and read books to the students , White was one of the first to volunteer, Bailey said. And when Scotland runs onto the field before games, White runs out with kids from the community, at least one attached to each hand as he heads out of the tunnel.
On the field, White has been dominant throughout his high school career.
White has run the 40-yard dash in an electronically-timed 4.4 seconds, as fast as elite college backs and receivers. He’s run 100 meters in 10.5 seconds. White is also strong, as he can bench press 330 pounds and squat 500.
Friends at school call him “Zeus,” after the king of the mythical Greek god because of his physique and athletic gifts. After rushing for 2,159 yards and 41 touchdowns last season, White received more than 20 college scholarship offers. Among them were Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Nebraska, North Carolina and Ohio State.
When he saw him as an incoming freshman, Bailey said he was pretty sure White would be special. He was convinced after a 21-20 win over rival Marlboro County (S.C.) during White’s sophomore year. Bailey called 39 running plays for White that night.
“We barely won,” Bailey said, “and I said, ‘Zamir, that was borderline child abuse what I did tonight. He told me, ‘Coach, that ball’s not heavy.’ He doesn’t care if he carries 39 times or nine as long as we win.
“But he does something almost weekly that most people can’t do. He’s just a rare athlete like that.”
Friday night in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County fans can get a look at exactly what rare looks like.