National recruiting analyst Chad Simmons of Scout.com said he didn’t have to watch Scotland Senior High sophomore running back Zamir White too long to know he’s special.
White, who plays at a class 4A school about two hours east of Charlotte, is ranked among the nation’s top five recruits by most recruiting services. He’s considered the No.1-rated player at his position.
“He was an early five-star recruit for me in the 2018 class, and there are not many of those,” Simmons said.
Most services give college prospects a “star” ranking, with five being the highest.
“I think very highly of Zamir and what he brings to the table,” Simmons said. “What I like as much as anything is his attitude and drive to be successful. Everybody can recognize the numbers he puts up and look at him and see he’s naturally blessed with talent.
“But get to know him, underneath the pads, and see what type of kid he is and you’ll see he’s extremely self-motivated and self-driven. He’s on a path to be extremely successful football-wise and even after football.”
At 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, White has run the 40-yard dash in 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 300 pounds and squat 430.
Friends at school call him “Zeus,” after the king of the mythical Greek gods 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.
Simmons said White stacks up favorably with two of the state’s most recent dominant high school running backs: Todd Gurley from Tarboro and Charlotte Catholic’s Elijah Hood. Gurley was N.C. Player of the Year in 2011 before enrolling at Georgia. He’s now with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. Hood was the state’s player of the year and U.S. Army national player of the year in 2013. He’ll begin his junior season at North Carolina this fall.
“I do think he’ll stack up well with those guys,” Simmons said of White. “What I’ve seen watching Gurley and Hood and from evaluating Zamir for two years is that (White) is much closer to a Gurley. Zamir has more wiggle than Elijah but also has the straight-line power. He’s going to be a national name.”
Like Simmons, it didn’t take Scotland County’s Richard Bailey long to discover he was coaching a special player. In White’s freshman season in 2014, Bailey planned to leave the youngster on junior varsity, but the school lacked depth at running back on the varsity roster.
Bailey recalled the first time White ran the ball in a game. The play was “45 Counter.”
“He went 60 yards for a touchdown,” Bailey said. “By the end of the year, he was splitting time (with the starter) and carrying the load. It was probably halfway through the freshman year that you said, ‘Yeah, that kid is the real deal.’ ”
White ran for 1,231 yards and scored 18 touchdowns that season. He averaged 7.9 yards per carry. White was even better as a sophomore last season, when he got off to a fast start:
▪ He ran 16 times for 242 yards and three scores against Hope Mills South View to start the season.
▪ In his second game, he came to Charlotte and torched state power Independence for 302 yards and six touchdowns on 31 carries.
▪ A week later, he had 234 yards on 36 carries and scored three touchdowns against S.C. power Marlboro County.
“He’s basically a guy who can do everything,” Bailey said. “He’s physical and can run over you. He can run around and he has really good hands. He can catch the ball. There’s nothing a running back can do that he can’t do.
“I compare him somewhere between an Ezekiel Elliott (the Ohio State star who was drafted No. 4 by Dallas in Thursday’s NFL draft) and Gurley.”
White is polite, often answering questions with “yes sir” or “yes ma’am.” He’s something of a celebrity in his hometown and in nearby Fayetteville. A few weeks ago, White was walking through a Fayetteville mall when a woman approached and asked to take a picture with him.
Not bad for a kid who was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, an opening in the upper lip that extends to the nose. The birth defect can result in feeding, speech and hearing problems. It resulted in 3,300 deaths globally in 2013, according to a Global Burden of Disease study. In White’s case, he was given 10 days to live at birth.
He said multiple surgeries -- and much prayer -- kept him alive.
“It’s made me work harder,” White said. “It’s a blessing, all of this that is happening to me. It does get overwhelming sometimes. People are coming up to you all the time asking questions: Where am I going (to college) and (telling me) where I should be going.
“I know people are watching me. I know I can’t do anything wrong at all. But like I said, it all just makes me work harder. I just want to go out there and do better next year than I did last year. And then I want to do it again.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
Zamir White career numbers
Freshman: Played in 13 of 14 games, had 155 carries, 1,231 yards, 18 TDs, 7.9 YPC
Sophomore: Played in 12 of 13 games, had 260 carries, 2,159 yards, 41 TDs, 8.3 YPC