Anytime an athlete who's found success outside of Bakersfield returns to speak with the city's youth, Lawrence White knows he's addressing a captive audience.
An aspiring football star himself, White says he was all ears whenever players like Joey Porter and Larry Parker Jr. would return to Bakersfield to discuss their paths to the NFL.
“It’s always beneficial for the youth to hear somebody that’s been outside the community and seen a lot of things, experienced a lot of things," said White, a former Ridgeview star and current defensive back at Iowa State. "I know when I was young, just listening to the older guys that I used to look up to that went to college and played ball, it always motivated me and I always felt special when they talked to me."
Having landed at a high-level Division-I program himself, White knows he's now in a position where his voice will resonate within his community. A criminal justice major, he's pursuing a career in juvenile counseling, with the hope of eventually returning to Bakersfield to help guide the underprivileged down the right path.
"I knew a lot of people growing up that went down, had some trouble and I just want to be there for them, show them there’s hope and different routes you can go on that are always beneficial for you," he said. "(I want to) show them there's a lot more opportunities out here in the world."
Praised as "a young man of high character on and off the field" by high school coach Dennis Manning, White knows football can provide him with a bigger platform on which to speak. And if he continues to make strides like he did in 2019, his voice will no doubt resonate even louder with young area athletes.
After redshirting in 2016, White made gradual improvements over the next two seasons for the Cyclones before breaking out last fall.
Starting all 13 games, he was second on the team with 84 tackles (18 more than he had in his first two seasons combined) and recorded the first two interceptions of his college career. This performance earned him All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors.
One of the more prolific offensive players in California in high school, White — who accounted for 6,300 yards and 74 touchdowns while winning two Division-II Central Section titles as a quarterback at Ridgeview — rarely saw the field as a defender until his senior season.
After making a full-time switch to defensive back entering college, White came to Iowa State very raw. After some early growing pains, he says a significant adjustment to his preparation put him in a position to be more consistent on the field.
"I made a plan early in the spring last year and just kind of stuck with it," he said. "I watched a lot of film, and that slowed the game down for me. I worked on a lot of tackling drills and got a lot of help from my teammates. It made the game a lot easier for me.”
Hoping to morph into a first-team all-conference and All-American player as a senior, White and his Cyclone teammates continue to work through what has been a challenging offseason.
ISU is still unable to conduct team activities due to COVID-19 restrictions, and many players have been unable to communicate face-to-face during the unrest that's broken out all over the country following the death of George Floyd.
And while past and current racial tensions have been a major talking point at the University of Iowa, White doesn't see the issues facing their biggest rival leaking into the Cyclone locker room.
"I’m really proud of my team because literally everybody on the team is asking ‘What can we do to help in the community?’ " he said. "Around here, (we want) to start off small and hopefully (bring awareness) on a national level."
If college football does return this season, expectations will reach nearly unprecedented heights for Iowa State, which is aiming to make a fourth-consecutive bowl game, something the program has never done.
Despite their recent success, Iowa State is waiting for an even greater breakthrough. The Cyclones haven't won more than eight games since 2000 and have never won a Big 12 title, and White is anxious to leave Ames having helped to bring an end to each streak.
"My goal for my team is to win a Big 12 championship," he said. "That's something we've been striving to do. We've got a lot of firepower and a lot of experience coming back and I think we've got a real good shot this year."