Roddy White set for induction into the Falcons' Ring of Honor

Roddy White set for induction into the Falcons' Ring of Honor

Roddy White #84 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after a touchdown by Jacquizz Rodgers #32 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on October 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The Falcons miss his squeaky laugh in the locker room.

The media misses his quotes before games against the Saints.

The affable Roddy White, who passed the torch along to Julio Jones, is set for induction into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

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"It's a special moment for me and my family, my kids," White said. "It's something that will be there for the rest of my life. I'm happy and proud about that."

This will be the first Ring of Honor ceremony at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a venue in which White never played. He played during the Georgia Dome era.

White, 38, who was drafted 27th in the 2005 draft out of Alabama-Birmingham, became the Falcons' all-time leader in career receiving yards (10,863), career receptions (808), touchdowns (63), career 100-yard games (39), 10-reception games (11) and consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (6) at the time of his retirement. Jones has since eclipsed his yardage total.

"When you think about him (White), you think about a competitor," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "Now, we get to celebrate those moments – he is as tough as advertised. You would be hard-pressed to find many state champion wrestlers and wide receivers – and that was what (White) was."

It seems like it was yesterday when White was rolling his bright orange car into the players' parking lot.

"It's funny, I always tell the young people that come into the league, it's like man, the journey we go on goes by really, really fast," White said. "Make sure you are paying attention to detail so that you maximize the time that you are in the NFL."

White did not meet his or his team's expectations over his first two seasons. Position coach George Stewart worked tirelessly to get White to flourish.

"Brian Finneran (a teammate and wide receiver) was on me every day because I wasn't giving our team my full potential, being the player that I could be," White said. "A lot of times you need guys like that in the locker room to help you each and every day to help you through those hard days."

In his third season, White blossomed under position coach Paul Petrino.

"Paul just pushed me to limits I didn't think that I could do out there on the football field," White said. "Every day he was motivating me. Every day he brought that energy."

White responded with 83 catches for 1,202 yards and six touchdowns in the 2007 season.

That was the bizarre season that saw quarterback Michael Vick go to jail and coach Bobby Petrino leave after 13 games. With all of the chaos surrounding the team, White found his stride.

"Wide receiver Joe (Horn) taught me a lot that year," White said. "How to be a pro. How to get my body ready and prepared each and every week. I cut out a lot of bad things that I was eating and just focused on football. Football was my life. I put it first and just ran with it.

"We started winning the year after that and having a lot of success."

Under new coach Mike Smith and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons posted an 11-5 mark in 2008 and went to the playoffs. White helped to make Ryan's transition to the NFL go more smoothly.

"I have so many great memories of Rod," Ryan said. "He's one of the most fun people you could ever play with. He's got the best smile of anybody. … He could brighten up everybody's day with his personality."

Ryan remembers White racing down the field to create a fumble on San Francisco's Nate Clements, who intercepted a pass with 1:20 left in the game Oct. 3, 2010. San Francisco had a 14-13 lead. With the ball back, Ryan drove the Falcons down for a dramatic win on a 43-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.

"I think my favorite memory with him is when we were playing against the San Francisco 49ers at home," Ryan said. "We had a two-minute drive, and I threw an interception. It's getting returned and Roddy chases him down and knocks the ball out.

"We recover it. We go back down in another two-minute situation and end up winning the game. To me, I just remember… that play because it describes exactly who he is. Regardless of the situation, he was the ultimate competitor, ultimate teammate."

Jones, who was drafted in 2011, credited White with helping him adjust to the NFL.

"It's just amazing all of the things that he's done here," Jones said. "He paved the way for a lot of guys, myself included. He taught me, so the way I play the game, I'm going to pass it down to these guys now, Calvin (Ridley), Russell (Gage) and (Justin) Hardy."

White reflected on his position coaches.

"In the NFL, you spend a lot of time with your position coaches," White said. "George Stewart came down to UAB every day prior to the draft and told me how bad they wanted me and how much they wanted me to be a Falcon."

Stewart, who previously coached with San Francisco, would show White one-on-one tapes of Jerry Rice and his tireless work ethic.

"He would always make me go against (cornerback) DeAngelo Hall each and every day (in practice)," White said. "It just made me a better player."

Under Smith, Terry Robiskie was White's position coach.

"Terry Robiskie was a mentor and a father figure for me outside of football," White said. "He would sit down and talk to me about life."

White liked Smith's approach to veterans and his status in the "over-30 club." The vets got a lighter practice load and could disappear in the offseason.

"Smitty took care of me," White said. "I think that's why I was able to play 11 years. Not having to do OTAs and stuff like that. We won a lot when he was here."

White's final season, in 2015, was a little bumpy under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He was phased out of the attack in Quinn's first season and finished with only 43 catches on 70 targets. He was unceremoniously released March 2, 2016, having finished his career playing for no other NFL team.

White, unlike former tight end Tony Gonzalez, doesn't have any dreams about returning to play.

"I dream about my youngest son, who's about 13 years old now, about him playing in the NFL, but we need him to grow a couple of inches," White said. "Other than that, I've passed the torch on."

White is coaching at Johns Creek High School, but don't expect to see him on the sideline in the NFL anytime soon.

"I'm never going to spend 12 to 18 hours in a building," White said. "That is never going to happen. Those guys work hard each and every day."

White, who went to four Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro in the 2010 season, when he led the league in receptions with 115, has no regrets.

"I played 11 years," White said. "I beat the average (3.5 years) two or three times. So, I'm pretty happy about my career."

Running back Warrick Dunn was the most recent player inducted into the Ring of Honor, in 2017.

Overall, the Falcons have held six enshrinement ceremonies for 10 players since 2004.

The first class of four members — running back William Andrews, quarterback Steve Bartkowski, and linebackers Tommy Nobis and Jessie Tuggle — was inducted in 2004. Jeff Van Note was added in 2006. Mike Kenn and Claude Humphrey became members in 2008, followed by Deion Sanders in 2010 and Gerald Riggs in '13.

This article was written by D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.