December 15, 2021
In the end, the final decision came down to family. What school had what Enai White thought was most like the family atmosphere he was about to leave at Imhotep Charter?
White, the Panthers’ 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior who is considered the nation’s No. 1 edge rusher, could have gone to any school he wanted to in the country. As decision time neared, he had narrowed his choices to Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Texas A&M.
On Wednesday afternoon at Imhotep, in the fifth year of the national early signing period, White confirmed for the nation a lot of speculation when he chose Texas A&M over the trio of other top programs on his shortlist. With his decision, White joins cornerback Bobby Taylor Jr., son of the former Eagles defensive back and one of the nation's top 25 players, in picking the Aggies.
The twists and turns of major college football made this a very uncertain time. With the chaos of the insane coaching carousel, with major college coaches leaving their programs before the season concluded, and an overflowing transfer portal, many major recruits have put their announcements on pause for Wednesday, February 2, 2002, the traditional National Signing Day.
He liked Texas A&M.
"A lot of people had an idea that it was going to be Texas A&M, but they don’t know why, and the reason why is the culture there reminds me of Imhotep,” White said. “It’s a real family-oriented culture and team, and there are guys you can depend on, and they’re all from Philly.
“There’s coach Elijah (Robinson, A&M’s vaunted defensive line coach who’s from Camden), and there is Tyreek (Chappell, the Aggies’ starting corner out of Northeast High), and Elijah Jeudy (the Aggies’ freshman defensive end of Northeast). That helped, guys I knew and guys I went to war against. All of the programs are good programs, but the family culture is what really stood out to me.”
White said that Texas A&M beat out Alabama, which was his second choice.
Texas A&M currently is 8-4 overall and sits at No. 25 in the College Football Rankings and No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Aggies handed No. 1-ranked Alabama its only loss this season and are slated to play Wake Forest on December 31 in the Taxslayer Gator Bowl.
Aggies’ coach Jimbo Fisher has snared what many college football experts believe is one of the top-5 recruiting classes in the country.
Topping that list is White.
“It came down to leaving a legacy, and if I went to Alabama, to me, that was like the easy route,” White said. “Going to Alabama is something that everyone would have expected me to do. I want to leave a legacy of my own. I want to do something different. With the recruiting class we have coming in, we have a chance to beat ’Bama, but we want more.
“With the guys we have coming in, I want more. We want more than just to beat ’Bama, I’m going there to win it all.”
Texas A&M projects White as a stand-up edge rusher, who is capable of playing at around 260 pounds and is able to drop back and play in space.
“Enai has all of the talent in the world, and we’ve heard nothing but good reports from the people from our area down there (at Texas A&M),” said Imhotep coach Devon Johnson, whose team finished 11-2 as the PIAA Class 5A state runner-up after a 17-14 overtime loss to first-time state champion Penn-Trafford. “Enai is just a great kid, who’s become a great leader. He’s someone who has that ‘it’ factor.
“He’s very respectful. He’s very coachable. You see these superstars and kids of Enai’s caliber act like fools. That’s not Enai. His best football is way, way ahead of him. We haven’t seen the power of his game and his technique will only improve once he gets to Texas A&M. He also has that competitive juice to be great, which is something that you can’t teach.
“I’m happy that he’s going to have the chance to compete at the highest college level, which will ultimately lead to his goal of playing in the NFL one day.”
White leaves a great legacy at Imhotep Charter as an all-Philadelphia Public League selection and the leader of a one of the best teams in the rich history of Imhotep football. The one and only thing missing was a state title.
It was White consoling his teammates and showing genuine concern for their hurt after the state title loss last weekend. He exhibited more maturity than many adults in the stands that night.
“It’s not going to be easy leaving, because Imhotep and our football team is family,” White said. “I have to say this, and make sure you include this, people around this area and around the state say we were an all-star team put together. What a lot of people don’t know or realize is that a lot of the players on this team have been playing together since we were 5 and 6 years old.
“We did this all together. That’s what hurts, ending the way it did. We beat ourselves. All credit to Penn-Trafford. They won and they deserved to win. They’re a great team. But we hurt ourselves and we fought ourselves during that game more than anything (Penn-Trafford) did. They didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves.
“We did a lot of great things and I think in time it’s going to sink in. I want to go out winning a state champion. I’m thinking about playing basketball (for Imhotep’s national-level team), and we have a great team. It will help me get in condition for football and I would have one more chance to win a state championship.”
It would be the missing piece of a great high school athletic career.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has been writing for PhillyVoice since its inception in 2015 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.