EXETER, Neb. — As his mother puts it, Nolan White is never not doing something. He hunts. Fishes. Helps his dad on the family farm. And plays a sport for every season, including football as a quarterback and all-state linebacker at Exeter-Milligan High School.
There's no time in that schedule for self-promotion. White took much more pleasure from replacing the transmission of a 1979 pickup than he would from tooting his own horn.
“He's just very quiet,” says his mother, Darcy. “He's like that with everybody.”
The lanky 6-foot-2 senior with brown eyes and wavy dark hair wears a dusty ballcap from his days playing youth baseball in this town of 591 about an hour southwest of Lincoln. He's played Legion ball for nearby Geneva. As soon as football ends, he starts basketball. And he made state throwing the discus for the Timberwolves' track team.
It's not hard to figure out where he got the athletic ability. His mother is the former Darcy Cudaback, the 1986 World-Herald girls athlete of the year at Exeter High School. She went on to an All-America volleyball career at Wyoming and now coaches the sport at Exeter-Milligan. Nolan's father, Brad, was a multi-sport high school athlete at nearby McCool Junction until knee problems ended his career.
While the bloodlines are clear, Nolan's personality is a bit of a puzzle.
“I've never seen him get upset,” Darcy says. “He's just a very even-keeled kid. I'm like, 'Don't you get frustrated?'
“Nobody else in our family is like that.”
His football coach, Dean Filipi, would like Nolan to speak up a little more. Exeter-Milligan, which opens the season Sept. 6 at home against Deshler, lost two vocal leaders from last year's Eight Man-1 runners-up in two-way starters Blake Papik and Robbie Androyna. Filipi hopes White helps fill the void.
The coach has no complaints with the way White prepares, plays or produces. He made 151 tackles for the Timberwolves last year and threw for 479 yards and nine touchdowns.
His offensive stats would have been better, but he broke his right hand in the final regular-season game and couldn't play quarterback in the playoffs.
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No problem. Wearing a big cast on his hand, the 195-pounder rotated in at guard and continued making tackles at linebacker.
“You know, it just never fazed him a bit,” his mother says. “He never once complained. He just decided, 'I'm going to find a way to help my team.' ”
White wishes he could have done more to help in the Eight Man-1 championship game. The Timberwolves led Elgin/Pope John 14-8 at halftime before losing 40-14.
They'd entered the championship game 12-0 and averaging 48.5 points a game.
“They kind of figured us out,” White says. “They figured our defense out. We couldn't tackle or anything. They were busting big plays all the time.”
White thinks the Timberwolves learned something in that game. “Don't think you're good enough to just beat somebody,” he says. “They ended up being better than we thought.”
White got the cast off in time for basketball season and missed only two games. Basketball is his real passion, his mother says, but his frame is better suited for football.
Filipi says White could play a number of positions in college. “I could see him being a really good tight end,” Filipi says. “He's got great hands. He jumps well. He's very competitive.”
Remember, though, he's not much of a self-promoter. White has heard from several small-college coaches in Nebraska and surrounding states. But he hasn't made any campus visits. He's not sure that he even wants to play college football.
His parents would love it if Nolan ended up at nearby Concordia University, where his older sister Claire is playing volleyball this year.
“We keep dropping hints he should at least continue playing the next four years,” Darcy says. “I don't want him to be the person who looks back and says, 'I wish I would have done this.' You just can't get those years back.”
Nolan, meanwhile, has been tinkering with the idea of going to a technical school and becoming a mechanic.
“I'll have to figure it out one of these days,” he says. “My mom will help me figure it out. She has a lot of say in what I do.”