By Jonathan Deal
Some things aren’t truly appreciated until they are gone. Not that Laron White is going anywhere, but it may take some time to fully appreciate what the Tanner head coach has done for the program.
Before White took over, Tanner had just one winning season since 1997. That was Tim Bowens’ first and only season as head coach in 2002.
“He (White) instilled confidence when he came in,” said Larry McCord, a Tanner booster for 23 years. “Tim Bowens turned the program around and he continued that. The boys respect coach White.”
The list of accomplishments for White are staggering. Since taking over at Tanner in 2001, White leads the state among active head coaches by winning 83 percent of his games in his 11-year career.
His Tanner teams have never missed the playoffs and won a minimum of seven games each season. Tanner has won four consecutive 2A Region 8 titles and currently holds the state record for consecutive region victories with 35.
“It’s been real good playing for him, he’s been a great coach,” said running back Hayden Stephens. “He’s taught us a lot of stuff, like how to be a warrior and never give up.”
Stephens was the latest Tanner player to make the All-State team at Tanner under White. During the past decade, 23 Tanner players have made first-team All-State or received honorable mention recognition.
Stephens said his coach never faltered when they faced adversity this season, something that obviously rubbed off on the players during the playoffs with five comeback wins.
“He didn’t show a lot of worry. He had a lot of faith in us from the beginning,” said Stephens. “He told us all year we could win a championship, and you could tell he meant it.”
White’s latest coaching job might be his most impressive. Not that the cupboard was bare, but the Rattlers lost several key starters and three All-State players from the 2012 team that won the school’s first state championship.
“It was so different than last year. These guys had to play every snap, every playoff game until the end,” said White. “I was worried about that last game, if my guys would be too tired to give that fight in the state championship game. They hung in there and played as hard as they (could).”
Senior offensive lineman Seth Smith has played for White since he was as freshman. The recent All-State selection said there is only one way to describe his coaching style.
“Intense,” said Smith. “I guess that’s the only word you can use. He works us hard, but he also works himself hard. There’s some nights, I don’t know if even sleeps, (with) staying up watching game film.”
As he often does with his team, White humbly deflected any individual recognition bestowed upon him.
“I put it all back on the coaches and the kids,” said White about being named Coach of the Year. “They make me look good.”
White’s resume speaks for itself, 118 wins and counting.