When Brevin White was growing up in suburban Los Angeles, his family had season tickets to UCLA football games. So he knew what it felt like to be around the sport at a big-time level. And like most youngsters who play the game, that's what he wanted to be part of some day too.
"I went to the Rose Bowl plenty of times," he recalled. "So I could see that as my future."
When he was only a high school sophomore White – whose brother Brady is a redshirt sophomore quarterback at Arizona State – had already received offers from several Pac-12 programs. More would follow, from other Power Five conferences. He would visit some two dozen schools across the country with his father. Then, on July 25 (his 18th birthday) he announced his decision via twitter from Cancun, where the family was vacationing. The news wasn't what anyone had been anticipating.
The guy who Scout.com had rated as the fifth-best QB in California and No. 16 nationally in the class of 2018 chose … Princeton.
"I've known him since he was like 8 years old," said Dean Herrington, his coach at Paraclete High School, who also coached White as a freshman and sophomore at Alemany High. "His brother came to our camp. I went to school with his dad [Deron], who was a basketball player. He's a smart-enough kid to know how important having a degree from Princeton can be. It's harder to understand football-wise, but the other part of it is way more important.
"He knows what he wants. A lot of kids don't think beyond a couple of years. He knows it's not a four-year decision. He's setting up his life."
Still, the reactions to his announcement weren't what White anticipated.
"My brother thought I was joking," he said. "It was pretty hysterical. He's like, 'That's not happening. You're too good for that. You're not going to the Ivy League. Why would you do that?' My dad was almost the same way. It's understandable. But he was proud of my decision.
"My sister [Julia] was even better. She had a 4.7 GPA, was a four-year varsity captain on the basketball team. She got a scholarship [from Notre Dame] for academics. She was happy for me, but also a little ticked off. She was the scholar in the family, worked her tail off, and now how in the hell does her little brother get into a better university? He's just a football guy."
Apparently not, though he obviously can play the position.
After Herrington was let go by Alemany two years ago, White transferred to Chaminade College Prep. But it didn't turn into the experience he envisioned. So he ended up back with Herrington, despite the fact that he has a 45-minute commute to Paraclete, which has a co-ed enrollment of 650 students.
The Spirits are 3-1 and ranked first in their playoff division. They're 26th in the state according to MaxPreps, the highest they've ever been. They beat Helix of San Diego, a perennial power, on the road. The loss was to Oaks Christian, which has a defensive end who's headed to Southern Cal and another who's one of the best junior prospects anywhere. White has passed for 13 touchdowns, with two interceptions.
"Our last game we had 15 drops," Herrington noted. "We've had 31 so far. He should have been 32-for-35. Instead it was 17. I've never seen anything like it. We have good receivers. They just dropped them. I told him to just keep throwing. But he's having a great time."
And that's something White intends to keep doing, even if he'll be doing it almost 3,000 miles away from home.
"I've been asked why so many times," he said. "It's a 40-year decision. That's my definition of success. You're not just measured by going to the [NFL]. If you're good enough they'll find you. I want to ride the wave as long as I can. But only one percent of college athletes go to the pros. And a career might not last long. I have to be prepared for what comes after that."
His dad is a senior vice president for a worldwide commercial real estate company, as well as a major college basketball official. So he doesn't have to look far for inspiration when it comes to providing a comfortable livelihood. White also visited Harvard, but for whatever reasons it didn't appeal to him. Princeton worked, in every respect. Even though it rained when he was there.
"I'm a pretty simple guy," White said. "And pretty confident. I'll have to work for everything. Nobody's going to give me anything, just because I'm the quarterback. I still have to win a job. In the minds of most people, I'll be an average freshman. Everybody's a student. These are the best of the best, future leaders.
"I'll have to work so hard to get good grades and be a good player as well. I know what an education from Princeton means."
Since the Ivies don't grant athletic scholarships, his parents will be making a financial investment that wouldn't have been necessary had White gone somewhere else. Since there is no national letter of intent to sign, he could always change his mind and opt to indeed go to another school for free. Except …
"I was patient with this process for a reason," said White, who wants to major in Economics. "Personally, I don't get caught up in decommitting and all that nonsense. I pledged my heart and soul to this university. I plan to keep it that way. It's the best in the country. That's hard to top.
"Basically, I waited for a phone call for two weeks after I left campus. Their admissions office had to give me my informal approval, after getting an early read on my transcripts. That was a stressful two weeks, to say the least, even on vacation. I was a little moody. When I found out I was ecstatic. It was a really good birthday celebration.
"They're ready for me to take the next step, to make it official. I'm like, 'Let's roll. Let's get this thing done.' "
It'll be a whole new world, a continent away near a different ocean. But he's ready to attack it, in every which way. And of course he'll be going up against Penn the next four years. Welcome to only game the alums on both sides care about.
"I'm looking forward to all of it," White said. "I'll have to get used to the snow. And I love my days at the beach. Hang out, get some sun. There's definitely going to be some challenges for me.
"If I had picked Arizona State or Notre Dame or Tennessee it wouldn't have caused as much buzz. This was uncommon. It really blew up. I was on the Dan Patrick Show the next day. I was in the Wall Street Journal. It took off into places I would have never expected.
"It was pretty humbling, the way it happened."