Raiders rookie Zamir White’s NFL journey began with his mother choosing life

by mcardinal

Rob Maaddi, FISM News



Zamir White has overcome long odds since before he was even born.

The Las Vegas Raiders’ rookie running back weighed just one pound when his mother, Shanee White, was six months pregnant, so a doctor advised her to abort the pregnancy. Shanee was only 14 years old and overwhelmed. Her grandmother, Nancy White, wouldn’t allow her to listen to the doctor.

“The doctor is not God, so he doesn’t have the last say,” her grandmother told her, according to an ESPN article. “If he takes one breath, he’s going to take it.”

Zamir grew to about seven pounds by the time he was born on Sept. 18, 1999, but he had a cleft lip and cleft palate. His body temperature dropped a day after birth, necessitating he be transferred to a hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where doctors told Shanee that her son might not live for more than two weeks.

But God had bigger plans for Zamir.

He spent three months in the hospital before he went home only to make several more trips to the hospital over the next few years. Zamir underwent surgery to repair his cleft lip at six months. He had another invasive procedure to repair the cleft palate, which is a hole in the roof of the mouth. 

Zamir spent his second Christmas in the hospital for surgery to repair leaking kidneys. He had another surgery for a hernia, and a few years later doctors transferred bone from his hip to his mouth to further correct his lip and palate. Doctors put tubes in his ears to reduce infections as well.

Through it all, Zamir battled.

Blessed with the talent to play football, Zamir White became a five-star recruit and landed at Georgia where he earned the nickname “Zeus.” He led the Bulldogs in rushing last season and helped them win the school’s first national championship in 41 years. 

The Raiders selected White in the fourth round of the NFL draft with high expectations. He did not disappoint, contributing early in a strong preseason, where he rushed for 90 yards and two touchdowns. White is expected to see immediate action in the Las Vegas backfield alongside Josh Jacobs.

“He is very special, and I think it’s unbelievable what he’s gone through in his life, what his family’s gone through in their life, and to see the adversity that he has continually overcome — he just keeps doing it,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said following White’s debut in the Hall of Fame Game. “And then to see him get out there in the first preseason game and run with that violence and run with that passion the way that he did, it was unbelievable.”

Despite all of her son’s health issues growing up, Shanee White is glad she listened to her grandmother.

“I didn’t want to have a child in high school. It wasn’t something that was planned, but it happened and he’s here, and I love him to death,” she told ESPN.

Zamir experienced more adversity as a football player. White tore his right ACL as a senior in high school and then his left ACL after arriving at Georgia.

He had to redshirt as a freshman and played behind current Detroit Lions tailback D’Andre Swift in 2019. He thrived in a starting role last season and entered the NFL draft. The Raiders were impressed enough to take him with the 122nd overall pick.

“We liked his physicality on film. And we had the opportunity to bring him here on our 30 visits and got to know him,” Raiders running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu said. “And I think that really helped, but he’s a solid young man, humble, hard worker, and fits the room well”.

He quickly became a favorite of head coach Josh McDaniels.

“Love his attitude. Works really hard when he’s on the field. Very coachable. He’s a great kid,” McDaniels said during training camp.