Tre’Davious White was all smiles when he sat at the podium to address the media following Day 3 of Buffalo Bills training camp. The star cornerback, who was the first draft pick of the Sean McDermott-era Bills, has been through it all with the team. Drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft to a team in rebuilding mode, White’s development into one of the NFL’s premier defensive backs has coincided with Buffalo’s rise into one of the league’s powerhouse franchises.
Now one of the veteran leaders not just in the secondary, but on the team, White spoke to the media Friday about his work ethic and mentality that has allowed him to emerge into a lockdown cornerback that his teammates can follow.
“I think it’s a trial and error thing,” White said about his development. “I’ve been beaten on so many routes. I’ve been beaten over and over again and I think in order to become that corner that you want to become, it’s going to take time, it’s going to take patience, it’s going to take trial and error. You have guys like Diggs, he’s going to give you different looks each and every time. You just don’t know what to expect. You got guys like Emmanuel Sanders who’s going to give you a different look too. So it’s just studying film, learning from your mistakes, and trial and error. You just have to be confident no matter what. Because we (as cornerbacks) are sort of at a disadvantage anyway, so if you can even do it pretty good, I think you’re in for a good career. I put a lot of work in and I take a lot of time and put a lot of work into my craft and I take it seriously.”
White’s effort certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed. The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder was a first-team All-Pro in 2019 and was a second-team selection in 2020 after recording 57 tackles, three interceptions and 11 pass breakups. He was among the least-targeted cornerbacks in the NFL, making his 14 plays on the ball even more impressive, too.
According to Pro Football Focus, White was targeted once every 9.3 snaps he played last year, the second-lowest rate in the NFL among cornerbacks that played at least 50-percent of their team’s defensive snaps. He allowed a reception just once every 15.1 snaps, also, the fifth-best rate in the league. All in all, White surrendered just 34 receptions for 483 yards and four scores.
But those handful of receptions allowed over the course of 14 games are simply too many in White’s eyes, but he uses each catch against him as a lesson that allows him to hone his craft, go back to the film and self-scout in order to get better. It’s a mentality that dates back to his collegiate days at LSU, he says, as his coaches encouraged him to use every opportunity he could to improve his technique and compete on every snap.
“Obviously coming in as a young guy, coming from LSU, my coaches just say ‘get up and challenge the guy.’ He didn’t care about the result,” White said. “He just cared about you fixing your technique and believing in yourself. It took me a while to get this because I don’t even want a guy to catch a one-yard hitch or a three-yard slant, but that’s unrealistic. So I think it comes with maturity and knowing everything is not about being a bad player, it’s learning from your mistakes. And I think that as I’ve matured in this league, I know that sometimes I can learn a lesson. so I can go back to the film and say, okay, next time I’ll play this differently. So it takes trial and error and some maturity, too.”
Now 26-years old, White is established as one of the best and highest-paid cornerbacks in the business and he’s treated as such by his coaches, which is something that even he will admit is a strange feeling. Though White may seem like he’s always joking and laughing, he takes his craft seriously and makes sure that he takes time to pass on his knowledge to his younger teammates.
“Over the summer, during our Zoom calls, after the meeting, some of the younger guys had to stay on to do some development stuff and coach Butler was like, ‘Alright Tre, I’ll see you tomorrow.’ And it’s a weird feeling! “White said while laughing. “But it’s a good feeling, and I’m growing up. But it’s a blessing man, that I can be an outlet for those young guys and those guys come to me asking how should I play this, how should I do this, and it’s a new challenge to me, it’s something I look forward to now. I think if I continue to lead those guys, the right way, those guys will have success.”
Buffalo’s secondary has been together longer than any in the NFL, with White, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde entering their fifth year together, while Levi Wallace is in his fourth. It’s one of the most talented groups the league has to offer and Tre’Davious White knows that it’s his contagious work ethic that has resulted in “Super Bowl or Bust” expectations for this 2021 Bills team.