ATLANTA — It's hard to imagine anything about LSU's Devin White being soft.
The 6-1, 240-pound linebacker stands in the heart of LSU's physical defense and finished tied for 12th in the nation last year with 133 total tackles. But when it comes to his passion for horses, White openly admits it's his "soft spot."
White owns seven horses, including Ricky Bobby, his first purchase, and Daisy Mae, his latest. White said he visits Daisy Mae every day at a nearby stable in Baton Rouge, while his other six horses are tended to by family members back home near Springhill, Louisiana. On weekends during the summer, White often travels back home to take care of the other six as well.
"I just ride and love. They’re like my kids," White said at Monday's SEC media day session. "I don’t have any children, but those horses, I go give them carrots, take them on walks and rides. They’re like my children.”
White said his passion for horses began when he was 5 or 6 years old, as he grew up in a small town where he'd see others riding horses "night in and night out." Once he got on one himself, he quickly fell in love with the activity.
The rising junior said his daily schedule includes football practice in the morning, classes and study hall afterwards, followed by a trip straight to the barn. Daisy Mae, 5 years old, was purchased last Sunday, according to White.
"She’s made my life easier this past week because I go spend time with her and there’s not a lot of outside noise,” White said.
On Wednesday, five days before the Tigers' turn at SEC media days, White tweeted out a video of him standing beside Daisy Mae, expressing his gratitude toward being selected as one of three LSU student-athlete representatives at the conference-wide event.
White said that spending time with his horses is a relaxing activity that's needed between his grueling football regimen that can be taxing both physically and mentally. He added that it's important to show a daily committment in order to ensure the horses stay healthy and strong.
"I feel like I’m in heaven on earth when I’m with my horses. No distractions, no phones, no football," White said. "Just me and my horse, we’re taking a stroll and working on getting better. Because at the end of the day, my horse has to get better too. Because my horse has to perform at a certain weight. So if I take a day off, my horse starts lacking. So I have to keep my horse up to date.”
It'd be easy to understand if LSU's coaching staff felt a little uneasy about White's off-the-field hobby, considering the risk of injury it may present. But White stressed the importance of safety and remains focused on his goal to play in the NFL.
White was named to the 2018 Bednarik Award watch list on Monday (for top defensive player in the nation) and is expected to be an early-round NFL draft pick if he chooses to forego his senior season.
“I’m kind of a pro when it comes to riding horses, so I’m not going to do nothing that’ll put myself in danger," White said. "You know, I just try to have everything under control. Because at the end of the day, I know this football stuff comes first, because I want to do this for a long time."
White is also careful when it comes to exposing his teammates to the world of horse riding. While he said he's taken some other Tigers out to the stables, no one has actually gotten on one of his horses yet.
“Greedy (Williams) is making that step to get on," White said. "Grant (Delpit), he’s terrified. He won’t even touch them. And Cam (Lewis), I think he’s going to make that step to get on very soon, too.”
If LSU is to get back on the metaphorical horse and compete for its first SEC title since 2011 — the Tigers finished 9-4 last season — White said it will be because of LSU's preparation and ability to play up to the competition in its challenging schedule right out of the gates. The Tigers open the season against Miami (Fla.) at a neutral site in Dallas, Texas and will travel to last year's SEC championship runner-up Auburn in Week 3.
“You can start unranked, but you can finish ranked — you can finish No. 1 in the country," he said. "So at the end of the day, it’s about how we look at it and what we get accomplished in the Bayou.”