Nov. 5, 2001
The goal of any walk-on player in any sport is to earn a scholarship. They practice with the team, complete all the requirements, all in an effort to earn financial relief for their hard work. The workload and effort required of walk-ons is the same workload and effort required of scholarship players. This is a story of a Clemson football walk-on who fought for three and a half years to earn a scholarship only to finally receive it, and out of pure selflessness and generosity, turn it down, enabling another player to receive the financial aid.
The story begins on Aug. 29, 1979, when Tore White was born. The middle child in a family of five children, White grew up surrounded by competition. His older sister, Nakkita, a high school softball player, was White’s main competition both academically and athletically. White played football and baseball in high school, earning scholarship offers to small schools for both sports. While athletics was an “outlet” for White, his academics served as his top priority. “My parents and my sister always pushed me to work hard, especially in the classroom,” White recalled. “Athletically, I had a couple offers from smaller schools, but my big thing was education. That’s what drove me.”
Due in part to the fact that his older sister attended Clemson, and has since graduated in industrial engineering, White chose the school because his focus was on education, not athletics. “I said if I came up here (to Clemson) I’d give football a shot, but I wasn’t really concerned with that.”
Thus the story moves from Andrews High School, where White graduated, to Clemson University, where he is currently a senior running back and specialist on the Clemson football team.
White’s major is microbiology, the only player on the team with that major. “Classes are demanding,” he said of his academics. “Labs can be anywhere from three to four hours a day. You’ve got to love it, especially since in microbiology all you deal with is microbes.” Balancing his rigorous academic schedule with football has been difficult for White, but not unmanageable. “My coaches are pretty lenient. They understand that I’m a student first, and then I’m an athlete. That was always my big thing coming to school here – student first, athlete second. That’s how it’s got to be in order for me to be successful.”
On the football field, just as in the classroom, White has always known his place. “I have always understood my role. At times even when we got a big lead I continued to keep my role in perspective. I play special teams, and by doing that I’m helping the team, and that’s what I want to do. I’m not going to overstep my boundaries. If I get some carries, so be it, if not, at least I’m helping my team.” Hence, Tore White attitude about every aspect of his life, as will be evident through this next part of the story.
On Sept. 20, after three and a half years of being a hard-working walk-on at Clemson, his determination and dedication finally paid off. “I walked into the locker room after practice, and there was a note on my locker from Coach (Tommy) Bowden and Andy Johnston (assistant AD for football operations). It said ‘Congratulations, you’ve earned a scholarship.'”
White’s goal of receiving a scholarship had finally been achieved. But things weren’t as simple as that. “When I first got (the scholarship) I was really happy and proud of my accomplishments. At the same time I put myself in a dilemma.”
White’s dilemma was one that is practically unheard of in athletics and perhaps even in all of life: Do I keep the money or do I give it up? “Because I had academic scholarships that were paying for much of my school, I wasn’t sure I would keep it,” White explained. “I always said that if I could help somebody else, I would.”
True to form, he walked into Coach Bowden’s office and explained that while he was appreciative of the scholarship offer, he had decided to turn it down so that another player, perhaps one who may have needed it more than he, could have some financial aid. It is because of that decision that Tyrone Lee, a junior tight end from Florence, SC, is now on scholarship.
“It was a surprise,” said coach Bowden of White’s decision. “You don’t hear about kids turning down scholarships too often. It says a lot about his family and how he was raised.”
After fighting so hard for White to receive a scholarship, and after seeing White himself fight for a scholarship, some of the coaches couldn’t understand why he would turn it down. “To the coaches who fought for me, I thanked them and said that since they did fight so hard for me, it was now my turn to fight for somebody else,” White said.
“That’s Tore,” said coach Burton Burns, White’s position coach. “That’s his nature, his character. He’s a caring kid, a team player. That explains everything about him. He’d rather put the team, or in this case someone else, before himself. That is a gift he has. It’s special that we have him around.”
“I have never heard of (a player giving up a scholarship) before,” continued Coach Burns. “He has worked as hard as any scholarship kid I’ve ever worked with. That typifies the spirit of college football – being a team player. He obtained his goal and that was his prize, not so much the monetary value, but that if he worked hard he could achieve that goal.”
For White, giving up the scholarship wasn’t a big deal. It’s natural for him to be generous and selfless. It’s his character. Although things have not always worked out as he may have planned, White has done well with what he has been given. “I remember when I was about 12 years old,” White remembered, “I wrote a story for class and it said I ended up being 6-2 and at least 215 playing at Florida State. Well, I fell short of 6-2 and way short of 215. It didn’t really work out.”
So now we come to the end of the story. Tore White, who currently stands 5-11 and weighs 190 pounds, is a Clemson football player who has achieved his goal of becoming a scholarship player, despite his current status of walkon. His countless displays of altruism have shaped him as a person and continue to be an identifying mark of him as an individual.
After graduation, White plans to work for the Greenville County Sheriff’s office in crime scene investigation. He will attend graduate school at Clemson with hopes of attaining masters and doctoral degrees. White plans to eventually become a federal agent, saying, “I just want to help people. If I can help people by being a federal agent with the FBI or CIA or something similar, that’s what I want to do.”
It is evident that White exemplifies the spirit of generosity. While he is certainly a contributor on the football field with special teams, his actions as an individual and a role model far outweigh any contribution anyone could ever make on the field. Coach Burns summed it up well when he said, “We need more Tore Whites in this world.” It is no stretch to say that Tore White betters the Clemson football team and Clemson University.
Shipp Daniel is a sophomore from Dillon, SC and is a student assistant in the Clemson sports information office.
March 14, 2019