Photo by Rebecca Walden.
0813 Sports rings
The White brothers, Nathan, Ryan and Tripp, each have a state championship ring, representing the second generation of athletic excellence in Hoover sports programs. In the center is their father’s winning game ball from the 1977 4A Berry High School State Football Championship.
Milton White Jr.’s sons always had a special affinity for his 1977 Berry High School State Championship football.
Not only that, they were fascinated by his ring.
It weighed his hand down, day-in and day-out as he raised his family. But the unmistakable point of pride rarely left his finger.
Milton, an ophthalmologist and devoted family man, lost his battle with Type 1 Diabetes in 2011 at age 48. At that point, his children still hadn’t lost their fascination. And now, it’s as much a part of his legacy as it is theirs.
What started with one ring has multiplied, and the White family has made an indelible mark on sports all across Hoover.
Milton was a native of Laurel, Miss. By many accounts, he was an average athlete when compared to the other football players on the Berry High Buccaneers in 1977. But under Coach Bob Finley, Milton helped his team complete a 13-1 football season. The team went on to capture the 4A (Berry’s division at the time) state title over Walker High School 21-0, the team’s fifth shutout of the season.
“There wasn’t just one strong outstanding player, they were just a bunch of average students and average skill athletes who came together under Finley and were able to succeed as one unit,” said White’s eldest son, Nathan. “That’s why they think that season was so special. Was our dad athletic? Sure, but was he some 6-foot, 250-pound machine? No. To capture that state title, the team definitely listened to coaches and fulfilled their roles as players.”
The story is poignant for Nathan, his twin brother Ryan and their youngest brother Tripp – particularly due to Milton’s untimely death. And their father’s championship ring and game ball, which sports signatures from Coach Finley and 40-something fellow players on that year’s team, motivated the boys early on.
“I remember growing up I would always see this football and this ring and I thought they were cool, but I didn’t really understand what they meant,” Ryan said. “I just kind of figured it’d be cool to have a massive ring like that one day.”
That thought was always in the back of Ryan’s mind, and it grew stronger in his early youth as he systematically attempted to play every sport imaginable before honing in on his true passion – tennis.
“Athletics runs deep in our roots,” he added. “It’s not just Dad’s legacy – our grandfather was a skilled athlete who also coached football. Nathan and I realized pretty quickly that we needed to pick a sport.”
The twins admit that at first their performances on the court were nothing to write home about. By their middle school years, however, the boys had begun to make names for themselves. Eventually, their USTA junior circuit travel demands necessitated they quit Briarwood Christian School and begin homeschooling.
By the 10th grade, however, this academic environment had lost its luster, and the boys had the luxury of picking from a number of Over the Mountain schools eager to recruit the young tennis talents.
Ryan admits it was Spain Park’s likely shot at a state championship that finally persuaded them to enroll there. Following high school athletic association rules, the White twins had to sit out of their sport for one year after enrolling in Spain Park, given their decision to attend a school outside their zoned area.
By their senior year, the twins proved they’d made the right decision – and that it was worth the wait.
“We were able to pull off a very slim victory over Mountain Brook in the state finals,” Nathan said. “We played doubles, and both teams had to win that last match for us to clinch the win – even then, it was only by 1 point.”
That point made all the difference, and Milton was there to see his twin sons, whom he’d seen progress in the sport since their tween years, win their own state championship rings. Adding to the glory was the fact that this state championship, achieved in 2007, was the first boy’s state title in Spain Park’s history.
“We both agreed it was nice to finally have our own rings because, while many of our father’s accomplishments we cannot equal, we feel like we’ve equaled him in this regard,” said Nathan. “And of course, ours are twice as big.”
It made for three in the family, and a fourth would come soon after. But Milton passed away before he could witness Tripp don his ring for the first time.
Tripp, currently a senior at Hoover High, earned his own state championship ring this past autumn for his film work about the reigning 6A State Football Champs, the Hoover Bucs.
Last fall, Tripp co-produced a weekly web-based show of Friday night football clips that he posted to iHigh.com. No stranger to sports media and filming, Tripp spent the past two football seasons operating the stadium’s upper deck camera, which provided game footage to be streamed online.
This past year, as the Bucs post-season hopes became brighter, Tripp helped develop photo-montage videos for fans and players alike. Set to music and produced in an upbeat format, these videos found loyal appreciation, particularly from the players themselves.
When the Bucs won the state title, they credited Tripp and his co-producer as playing an instrumental role in the team’s success.
“I work as a nurse in a surgery center in sports medicine,” said the boys’ mother, Paige White Pattillo. “We get a lot of athletes, and I often ask them if they have one of these huge rings. I tell them, ‘My son did too, but he didn’t play football.’ They instantly mention Tripp and say things like, ‘Oh man, he and Will got the best footage of me making my touchdown. They knew the guys helped them look good and that made me thankful. As a mom, I was proud that the team members valued their contribution.”
And now, with four in the family, Milton’s sons boast the hardware to extend his heavy-handed legacy.