BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Senior Writer
MADISON, Wis. — On Monday morning, James White traded high fives with a New York City studio audience, hugged Kelly Ripa and exchanged banter with David Muir, the anchor of ABC World News Tonight and Ripa's co-host. White was on the "Live with Kelly" marquee with Jeremy Jordan, a Broadway star ("Newsies"), and Kal Penn, who has dabbled in acting, producing and civil service.
Penn does many things well. Sort of like White, the former Wisconsin tailback and the de facto Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl LI after catching a record 14 passes from Tom Brady (the official MVP) and scoring the game-winning touchdown in the New England Patriots' historic come-from-behind 34-28 overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons. White scored three times, tying a Super Bowl record.
Attired conservatively but sharply in a grayish-blue suit and open-collared dress shirt, White looked comfortable and very much at home in the presence of Ripa and Muir, who conducted the first one-on-one television interview with President Donald Trump after taking the oath of office.
Almost all of White's responses were accompanied by a throaty laugh — a trademark — along with his smile, which he flashed often while fielding questions and comments, including Ripa's unusual observation, "I'm always shocked you guys don't get more injured hugging each other than tackling each other," which overlapped a replay of White's two-yard scoring run off right tackle with 11:02 left in OT.
"We're actually pretty surprised, too — it's just fun celebrating with your teammates," said White, who added that seeing the video always spurs the same reaction. "It still feels surreal to me. It doesn't get old. But I get nervous watching it — every time I see it — like I don't know what happens."
Less than two hours after his appearance on "Live with Kelly" — one of a plethora of variety/talk show commitments that he has kept the last two weeks — the 25-year-old White was on the phone confirming what he has been saying about his narrative to everyone on the interview circuit.
"You definitely dream about something like this," he said Monday.
Like most youngsters, he grew up with the ambition of performing on the biggest of stages, the Super Bowl. And it happened, the dream came true. But he says his newfound celebrity won't change who he is. White is adamant about staying grounded, which is how he was raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"I'm still the same guy," White emphasized. "I'm not going to change."
Photo: Wisconsin Badgers
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