Face of the Week: Donte White of Overlea High School

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Face of the Week: Donte White of Overlea High School

At age 16, Donte White already has quite a background as an athlete.

The Overlea High School junior was already racking up accomplishments at age 12. He tried playing basketball and baseball, but they just weren’t physical enough. Wrestling was more his thing, and he excelled, winning multiple state and national titles. He liked football, too, where his size and power made him a serious threat as a running back and middle linebacker. Even as he played with friends in his yard, he liked being physical as he found some of his dad’s old martial arts equipment and started sparring with his friends. Their battles were all good natured – he’s still close with his core of childhood friends today – but his dad thought that maybe Donte’s love of physical sports could be harnessed in an unexpected way. Boxing.

First step: Finding a coach

A simple Google search brought 12-year-old Donte and his dad to the Upton Boxing Center in Baltimore, where he was introduced to Coach Calvin, as in Calvin Ford, the legendary trainer who inspired the character Cutty in ‘The Wire,’ and the trainer who still works with Donte today. It was an instant fit.

“I loved it,” Donte said. “It was physical.” Although he started out very raw, within a few months he’d already won his first match against an older opponent. The fight was done within 30 seconds.

Cut to 2018. Donte, known to his friends and family as “Biggy,” spent 2017 dominating the junior division of USA Boxing as a heavyweight. He won major tournaments across the country, including the National Silver Gloves Tournament in Missouri, the Junior Olympics in West Virginia, and the Eastern Elite Qualifier in Tennessee. Now he’s moved up to the next division of USA Boxing, men’s youth, where he’s already ranked number four in the nation.

His will to learn

With his success, one might assume that it’s all due to natural ability. Ford, who also works with professional boxers such as former IBF World Junior Lightweight Champion Gervonta Davis, is quick to disagree. “It’s not his natural ability. He’s not a natural boxer,” he said. “It’s his will to learn, his will to become that guy. He listens and understands the process. He’s learning quicker than most guys I know. The (professional) guys I train, he’s on their level.”

Donte understands the importance of training, but when asked about his favorite famous boxer, his response of ‘Andre Ward’ has nothing to do with in-ring skill. “I like the way that he handles himself out of the ring,” Donte said. “He’s humble. He handles his money well. He’s respectful. Any fighter can be good in the ring. It’s how you handle yourself outside of the ring.”

Phil Lauman, who taught Donte geometry last year, describes a student who indeed embodies the characteristics of Andre Ward.

“As teachers, we often remember years later, or simply can’t forget, the kids who cause us so much trouble because we spend so much time dealing with their behaviors. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget many of the other students for just the opposite reasons,” Lauman said. “Donte is a student who will be remembered for all of the right reasons. He is a hard worker who is also well mannered, respectful and friendly. He seems to harbor no ill will towards anyone, and despite his intimidating size and strength, he always has a kind word, a friendly handshake, or a simple smile for all who cross his path. He is a true gentle giant, except on the football field or boxing ring, of course.”

Overlea High School physical education teacher Mike Buzzeo shares similar sentiments. In fact, he had Donte in class for months last year before he had any clue about his boxing skill. That all changed when he saw Donte near a pull-up bar JROTC students had left in the cafeteria. He challenged Donte to five pull-ups. Unbeknownst to Buzzeo at the time, Donte is highly dedicated to training. He regularly spends time jumping rope, lifting weights, hitting the heavy bag, shadow boxing, and sparring. He watches what he eats and uses modern techniques such as cryotherapy – a technique where the body is rejuvenated by three-minute sessions in a chamber chilled by liquid nitrogen - and cupping therapy – the technique to loosen muscles that leaves red circular marks on the body. Of course, Donte also does pull-ups, as Buzzeo quickly learned in response to his five pull-up challenge. Donte easily did those pull-ups, and five more for good measure, all while wearing an easy smile.

The character and the ability

“Humility is one quality of his that I admire the most because he doesn't brag about his talents and achievements. He isn't flashy about his accomplishments or what he has done, and flat out is a great kid to be around,” Buzzeo said. “He will greet you with warmth and always enjoys talking about sports at all levels, whether it be high school football, the NFL, or his interactions with elite boxers.”

In reality, Ford sees Donte becoming an elite boxer himself, if that’s what he wants. “He has the character and the ability to do it, with his young age and experience,” Ford said. “He’s got people around him making the journey. He’s got a good manual to look at.”

Donte knows boxing is what he wants to do with his life. “I want to make this a career. I want to be a fighter,” he said matter-of-factly.

How that journey plays out is yet to be determined. One possibility is the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. “It just seems like that is something good to have on my resume, to get that experience,” Donte said, while adding “It’s nice to have that American flag on you.”

Even if the Olympics aren’t in his future, Donte is confident in his future, as long as he stays true to the rules he sets for himself.  “Stay humble. Keep your head on straight. Keep focused. Keep training. Stay with the team that you started with. Stay with the team that brought you up.”

More images can be seen on the BCPS Flickr page.

Submitted by Jeff Flynn, Good News Ambassador and Library Media Specialist, Stemmers Run Middle School

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