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Tre'Davious White learning challenges of NFL and fatherhood at Bills' camp

PITTSFORD -- In the early stages of fatherhood, you learn and adjust. Saying goodbye to your three-month-old son before heading off on an extended business trip is one of the more difficult adjustments. He has no clue of what's going on as Daddy looks into those bright eyes one last time before saying goodbye.

Tre'Davious White couldn't help but get a little choked up while giving that final wave to Tre'Davious, Jr.

"Just knowing that I'm not going to see him for awhile, man, it's definitely emotional," he recalled Sunday of that moment last week when he left Baton Rouge, La., to report to the Buffalo Bills' training camp. "A lot of people tell me there's nothing like when you have your own kid. I'm learning that first-hand now. It's definitely a hard thing."

Same goes for the early stages of playing cornerback in the NFL. Here, emotions must be kept in check, but the learning and adjusting present their own set of challenges. White's biggest adjustment so far is transitioning from the defense he played at LSU, from where the Bills made him a first-round draft pick, to the one he's learning on the practice field at St. John Fisher College.

On this year's Bills team, cornerbacks mainly play zone coverage. At LSU, they primarily played man-to-man.

"So my back has always tended to be towards the quarterback," White said. "Now, I've got to kind of zone-turn a little bit more than usual. So it's something that I'm definitely getting used to. I've been working on it after practice and working on it in practice. And I feel like I'm getting better and better, and" as "I continue to work, I'll master it."

If the first four days of camp practice are any indication, he’ll need to put in all of the time he can before lining up in games that count.

Saturday was rough. On more than a few occasions, White was caught staring at the quarterback and not turning quickly enough to get into position to prevent catches in the area of the field for which he was responsible. He looked every bit like a rookie, and the offense feasted on his rawness.

Sunday was better. White made plays, including a nice breakup of a pass for fellow rookie Zay Jones during an  11-on-11 period.


There was nothing magical about what he did to rebound.

"Just day by day, getting better, just learning from my mistakes and not making the same mistake twice," White said. "I feel like, if you do that, you'll continue to improve."

Cornerbacks have to do something else. They have to forget. Quickly.

That has never been a problem for White, something the Bills recognized during their pre-draft evaluation.

"He's shown in college, and he'll show it here as well and we're seeing it in practice, that when something like that happens -- someone catches the ball -- he's a quick learner," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "He makes adjustments in midstream, so we're not really concerned with some of those things that might happen now. He's shown ability to have a short memory.

"You've got to have that at the corner in the National Football League. Guys are going to catch balls. You've just got to get back on the horse and just keep going, and he has that type of mindset."

White has a good grasp of the up-and-down nature of his position, which is the same for a multi-time All-Pro as it is for a rookie. He expects to ride a roller-coaster every time his cleats hit the grass.

"I feel like my whole time of playing football, I've always been that type of player to, when things don't go my way, come out the next day or the next play" and improve, he said. "Just have that short-term memory and just put my best foot forward and just try to compete at a high level."

White is surrounded by some superb teachers beyond defensive backs coach Gill Byrd and assistant defensive backs coach Bobby Babich.

One is new Bills safety Micah Hyde, whose multi-faceted experience in the Green Bay Packers' secondary has given him a wealth of knowledge that he willingly shares with his younger teammates.

"So he's sort of a guy that I can pretty much go to in any aspect of the defense, just from a nickel standpoint or a safety standpoint, just knowing where my help is and just knowing that" Hyde is "going to be over the top because he knows pretty much everything that's going on on the field," White said.

He also has benefitted from his daily encounters with wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

"To have one of the best receivers to play the game in the NFL on my team, I'm able to go against him each and every day," White said. "And it's definitely a plus for me because he'll pretty much get me ready for any receiver on any given Sunday. He's a guy that you definitely can talk to as far as, you want to know what a receiver's thinking when you line up a certain way. Because he's pretty much" gone "against the best like" Darrelle "Revis and guys like that. … So I just want to pick at his brain and pretty much pick up on any tidbits that I can to put myself in a great position to help this team win."


At this level, patience has its limits. After losing Stephon Gilmore in free agency, the Bills desperately needed help at cornerback.

Making White their top pick was done with that sense of urgency. Making him an immediate starter was, too.

"When you draft a guy in the first round, you're hoping he can come in and really give you something that first year, which would be ideal," Frazier said. "He has been very, very impressive going all the way back to the early part of the offseason program and right through the early part of training camp as well. So we're excited about what we're seeing, and there's a lot more football to be played. But for a rookie, he's done a really good job up to this point."

"That's what you work hard for," White said of being plunked into the starting lineup right away. "You put the work in from being a little kid to growing up and playing football. You want that pressure, you want that expectation, because I'm sort of a guy that nobody's going to be harder on me than I am on myself. So I put that pressure on myself and I pretty much expect myself to do great things. So when other guys expect it from me, it's not such a big deal because I always have that pressure on myself."

He had no such preparation for being a father at 22 years old. No one coached him about what being separated from his baby boy for the first time would be like.

"I'm not able to see him, because my girl is studying for school" in Louisiana. "She's going to be done with nursing school in December, so I'm not going to see him during camp," White said. "But once the season rolls around, they're going to come to whatever game they can."

In the meantime, video visits with little Tre'Davious will have to do.

"Once I get in and take a shower, it's FaceTime," White said with a broad smile while walking off the field. "What's today? July 30th. He just turned three months. I'm going to wish him a happy three months."

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