The Redskins traded down in the fourth round on day two of the NFL Draft and still managed to get a player team officials had targeted all along--UCLA fullback Manuel White.
White appealed to the team because of his versatility, head coach Joe Gibbs said. At 6-2, 245 pounds, White is a bigger ball-carrier who the team hopes can help punch the ball into the end zone in short yardage situations. He also plays on special teams.
"With my size and versatility, I think that's something I really have going for me," White said. "I played numerous positions--tailback, fullback, H-back and special teams--so I just think I'll be able to contribute somewhere on the team next year."
The Redskins scored just six rushing touchdowns last season. White could help increase that total next season either by lead blocking or carrying the ball himself.
"Whenever I get close to the end zone, I have a knack for getting it in there," White said. "That's just something I take pride in doing, not being denied."
Said Gibbs: "We think he's a good runner with the ball. He's big; he'll give you a goal-line guy to knock people back."
White finished his career at UCLA with 1,814 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. He also recorded 52 receptions for 518 yards and three touchdowns.
White's draft status was somewhat questionable after he suffered a meniscus tear in a knee during a Senior Bowl practice last January. He had arthroscopic surgery before the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
"We decided to get it cleaned out before the combine so that when it was time for me to do my pro day at UCLA, I was ready to go," he said. "Now, I am ready to play. I'm 100 percent healthy."
White said that he patterns his game after another big running back: Eddie George.
"Growing up, when I was in high school, and throughout my career at UCLA, I loved the way he ran," White said. "He's a big back with good speed and good hands. He's just a complete back. He wasn't too flashy, and I'm not a flashy guy."
White worked out for Redskins running back coach Earnest Byner and tight ends coach Rennie Simmons, and Gibbs was impressed after reviewing film of him.
"He impresses you because he's got quick feet for a big guy," Gibbs said. "He would get in the hole, and rarely would the first guy get a good shot on him."
Gibbs also projected White as a contributor at the H-back position behind Chris Cooley.
"An H-back has to be a bright guy to learn the formation stuff and have good hands," Gibbs said. "He needs to be a bigger guy who can block, and we feel Manuel fits in there."
Asked if he has ever played H-back, White replied: "I have done it a little bit, so I'm familiar with the position. I have a lot of learning to do."
No matter where White plays, he simply hopes to make an impact as a rookie.
"I just want to contribute to the team, wherever that may be," White said. "I know, obviously it will be special teams, but if I can do something offensively to contribute to the team, that would be great."