On February 28, 2020, Suwannee High School Senior Antonio White received a special phone call.
On the line was Congressman Neil Dunn informing White of his appointment into the United State Military Academy West Point. Upon hearing his appointment, White was shocked to hear the news. “My initial reaction was disbelief. Whenever he called me and he said he had good news, I did not know what to say or think. All I could say was ‘thank you’.”
White has always had to fight for everything he has and receiving his appointment into West Point was no different. White needed letters of recommendations from his teachers (math, physics, PE and English), a congressional nomination, and had to be medically qualified. White said, “I just kept praying about it and things kept going in the right direction.”
Getting his teachers to write a letter of recommendation was the easy part to White however; receiving congressional nomination was going to be a challenge. “It is all God. I was competing against 60 other students just to get Congressman Neil Dunn’s letter of recommendation. I had to apply and interview just to get his nomination.” Concluding his interview, White felt confident of his chances. White was on his way to get coffee with a friend when he received the phone call notifying him he received the congressional nomination.
White leaned on a friend and SHS Athletic Director Mike Braun, a West Point graduate, as to what his next move should be. Earlier this year, White had never considered West Point and had no knowledge of its existence. White says Beth Cocchiarella pushed him to apply. Cocchiarella felt White had a good shot of getting in and she knew he needed to keep his options open outside of football. “All the praise goes to her. Literally, every single day she would text me and tell me I needed to do this. She was like my second mom.”
After Christmas break, White had to do his Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA). The CFA included running a mile, push-ups, pull-ups and other various fitness tests. Concluding his CFA, White received an all-expenses paid trip to visit West Point. White said only 30 students in the nation received this all-expenses paid trip. During his trip, White met with the Superintendent and the First Caption of West Point. White said, “After I left West Point and talked to some people, I decided I wanted to come here and run this place. My goal is to come here, graduate first of my class, be First Caption and be a Rhodes Scholar.”
After going back and forth on his decision to play football at West Point, White ultimately decided football did not help him reach his goal of graduating at the top of his class. White credits Coach Braun for his words of advice. White says Coach Braun asked him how football helped him achieve his goals of becoming First Caption, to which White could not respond. White knows this is the right choice for him because he wants to set an example for other individuals in similar situations as him. “I am thanking God so much because I feel like he is using me as a platform to show other kids that you do not have to be an athlete to do something with your life. You can tear your ACL and football can be taken away from you but if you work hard in the classroom no one can take your GPA away from you.”
“I want everyone to understand that I did not do this on my own,” said White, “There have been countless coaches, adults and God along this way. I am not extraordinary; I am just some regular kid who works hard. I do not want someone to look at me and think, ‘he is so great’, because I am not.”
White reports to West Point for “R Day”, which is his reception day, on June 29, 2020. “That is the first day of boot camp. Six weeks of boot camp and then I start the semester. From what I have heard, it is going to be extremely difficult that first year.”
White is excited about getting to West Point. White said, “This will be the first time in my life that I am on an even playing field with everyone else. My freshman and sophomore year I had to work two jobs or I did not eat. I like a challenge. As I am getting older, I am starting to understand myself more. I definitely do not think I was put on this earth to do regular things and I think now is the time to really show it.”
Although his time in Suwannee County may have been shorter than most, White certainly left his impact on SHS. SHS Principal Ronald Gray said, “Antonio White is in many ways the embodiment of the American Dream. Antonio is a talented and gifted young man, but more, he is tough kid that overcame his circumstances. I know of few people that have faced the obstacles placed in his way, and yet still go on to achieve this level of success. We are all very proud of him."
“It is all God,” said White, “It is all part of his plan. I truly believe I was put here to show other kids that they can do this. I am going to stay humble and never forget where I came from. It is crazy the amount of love I have got from this. I have never felt better in my life. Just the positivity has been incredible.”
White is unsure what he will major in while at West Point but his end goal is to end up in politics. White wants everyone to know he is motivated and humbled by his experiences. White said, “At any point in my life, I could have ended up anywhere else, either jail or dead. God has placed a tremendous amount of incredible people in my life to bring me to where I am now and I take no credit in what has taken place. I am just a normal kid, I just happen to be really funny. I will use the opportunity that I have as a platform to show kids and adults that it does not matter your circumstances or who tells you what you cannot do. If I can do it, anyone can.”