The sounds of the football practice echo from the field, and on the sideline, the father is watching his son.
This son, though, isn’t playing. He’s coaching. He’s 51 years old, having led the Arizona Rattlers for 12 seasons and to four Arena Football League
Championship games — including one seven days from now. Danny White, one-time all-American quarterback at Arizona State and Pro Bowler with the Dallas Cowboys, has spent a lifetime in football already.
And Dad — Wilford “Whizzer” White, a pretty fair football player in his day — has been around for most of Danny’s football life. That includes near-daily trips to the practice field, watching the Rattlers prepare for their next game.
“You think how long this has to have been going on, Whizzer taking Danny to football practice since he was a little kid,” said 11-year Rattlers veteran Hunkie Cooper. “Whizzer has been to more practices than I have, I think. I’m serious.”
It would have been fitting for the Rattlers to be playing in ArenaBowl XVII today, on Father’s Day, given the Whites’ relationship. That didn’t happen, not with NBC telling the AFL to fit in a bye week so the network could televise golf’s U.S. Open.
Instead, the two will spend time together today with the rest of their family. Next week, Whizzer will climb on the team’s charter flight to Tampa, Fla. He’s hoping for a good result, since he wasn’t part of the semifinal victory celebration in San Jose.
Whizzer decided to skip that trip because of last season’s ArenaBowl debacle in San Jose when his son’s team was pounded, 52-14.
“I got so mad after the game last year I wanted to go down to the field and lock up with somebody,” the 74-year-old Whizzer said.
The prism through which each sees the other is clearly different. Whizzer watches practice and the way Danny runs the team with obvious pride. He was beaming earlier this week after Tampa Bay coach Tim Marcum publicly credited Danny for advancing offenses in Arena football with his creative playbook, saying that other coaches copied Danny’s work.
Danny, who said he decided to get into the Arena game back in 1991 in large part to have a football job near his family, views his Dad’s forays to practice as another chance to be close while the years pass.
“The thing I have learned is the older you get the more you cherish the relationship,” Danny said. “You realize there is only so much time you have to spend together.
“Family is higher on the list than football for me. It’s been a real luxury to be able to stay involved in the game and be around family. If I had to choose one or the other, I’d choose family. Fortunately, I haven’t had to choose.”
Even with Whizzer’s background — he was an all-American running back at ASU who played in the NFL — both agree Whizzer doesn’t offer much advice about the Rattlers. Perhaps that is best for both. Whizzer said there has been a competitive side to the relationship since Danny was a young boy, which can come out the few times the pair does discuss the team.
“I critique everything,” Whizzer said. “If I see a guy that doesn’t make a move he could have made, I don’t say anything, but I see it, and I grumble.
“Once in a while, I’ll voice it . . . but 90 percent of the time, he defends that guy to me. I’ll say, ‘Oh, you don’t know what you are talking about.’ ”
It is that intensity that the father believes he has passed on to the son. Whizzer never wanted to “give in to anything or anybody,” and he said Danny is the same way, although it might be exhibited a bit more passively.
Whizzer gets more animated when he talks about the time former Cowboys coach Tom Landry told him Danny would have become his offensive coordinator had he stayed coaching in Dallas.
Or when he says he feels “disappointed” and “alienated” from ASU because they haven’t given Danny a chance to at least be an offensive coordinator.
He isn’t the only one to ever say such things. But the father in him clearly is a strong motivator on the subject.
After all, Whizzer White is a football man second, a family man first. That’s why he comes out to practice so often. If Danny is out on the field, Whizzer is going to go find him. He always has.
“He’s got a real affection for the players as well, especially the guys who have been here a long time, as I think any father would with a team his son coaches,” Danny said. “I do that with my sons and their friends.
“I think he genuinely enjoys being around these guys and being out here.”