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Handsworth receiver grabs spot on Team Canada

January 11, 2018

​Football in the blood for Keelan White
Andy Prest / North Shore News
Handsworth’s Keelan White makes a play against Carson Graham in Buchanan Bowl 31 played in September. The Grade 11 receiver was one of the top playmaker’s in the province this season and has earned a spot on Team Canada for an upcoming all-star game against the United States. photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News

His father was a CFL player and he’s been coached by legendary receivers Geroy Simon and Paris Jackson, but there might be another person responsible for the incredible catches made by North Vancouver teenager Keelan White throughout his football career.

“He gets his hands from me,” says Keelan’s mom, Tracy White, with a laugh. “They never paid his dad to catch. He was a linebacker in the CFL. He definitely gets his hands from his mother.”

There might be some truth to all of that. Richard White, Keelan’s father and head coach this year at Handsworth Secondary, starred at linebacker at Simon Fraser University and played several years in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and BC Lions in the 1980s. But Tracy played football too, lining up at receiver in a Vancouver-based women’s flag football league for several years, playing for a number of teams that earned their way to the Canadian championships.   

No matter where the talent comes from, Keelan is well on his way to becoming the North Shore’s latest breakout football star. No doubt the genes from his mother and father combined to make Keelan a powerful force on the football field, as the Grade 11 student is gearing up for a trip to Texas this week where he’ll play in the International Bowl as a member of Football Canada’s junior national team. He’s coming off a high school season that saw him lead all AAA players in the province in receptions and receiving yards, while putting up the second most punt return yards and also finishing in the top-20 in rushing yards. He was one of two North Shore players, along with Handsworth teammate Evan Currie, named to the provincial AAA all-star team.

In three league games White averaged 134 yards receiving and 89 yards rushing while also shutting down other top receivers as a defensive back.

“He had a pretty good year,” said Richard, serving the dual roles of understated coach and proud father. “He’s a dynamic kid that’s all over the field.”

According to Tracy, Keelan has been a dynamic player since he first touched a ball as a four-year-old playing in the North Shore’s GSL youth football program.


Keelan White earned the attention of national team scouts while playing for British Columbia in the Canada Cup last summer. photo supplied

“They nicknamed him ‘Slippery’ back then because nobody could catch him,” Tracy said. “He would just get through everybody and run end-to-end. It was kind of eye-opening at the time. At that point it was like, this kid is pretty fast. Well, I always knew that because I couldn’t catch him. He kind of got a name for himself pretty quick.”

There was some early trouble though – his first coaches wanted him to play quarterback. That didn’t exactly sit well with Keelan, however, because quarterbacks are expected to give the ball to other players. That wasn’t young Keelan’s style.

“I didn’t like giving the ball away,” he said with a laugh. “I tried to keep it all the time. Then I just got switched to running back....The coaches finally got the message that I just wanted to hold the ball and run with it.”

He’s been running with theHe’s been running with the ball ever since. His biggest gridiron win so far came when he was in Grade 9 and helped the Windsor Dukes win the junior provincial title. Several members of that stacked team were on the senior squad that won the AA provincial title this season. White, however, was a year younger than most of those players, and he made the tough decision to transfer to Handsworth when he learned that Windsor was having trouble recruiting enough players for a junior team for his Grade 10 year. He then played one season under longtime Handsworth coach Jay Prepchuk, known around the province as an offensive guru.


Handsworth’s Keelan White fights off a tackler. This season he was named a provincial AAA all-star. photo Paul McGrath

“He really knows what he’s talking about,” said Keelan. “Sometimes he’ll call the plays that the other team is going to run before they even run it. I don’t know how he knows. He’s got a really high football IQ.”

This year Richard took over after Prepchuk retired, guiding the Royals to the playoffs with a first-place finish in the Pacific Division.

Keelan has also thrived in other football settings, starring with the Game Ready Elite squad coached by Jackson and Simon that competes in seven-on-seven touch competitions, as well as for Team B.C. in flag and tackle competitions. He was competing for B.C. at the Canada Cup tournament last July when he gained the attention of the junior national team coaches, who picked him as one of the 40 players who will compete for Canada against a U.S.A. all-star team in the International Bowl next week in Arlington, Texas.

“It’s amazing,” Keelan said of getting a chance to represent his country. “I wasn’t expecting it. After the Canada Cup I heard that there was a Team Canada and I wasn’t expecting to make it at all. And then I was just at home and I got a text and I was just insanely surprised. It’s a huge honour to play for Canada.”

There’s no secret to what Keelan, who cites New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as an inspiration, wants to do when he steps on a football field.

“I just try to catch the ball, get the ball in my hands, and then do something with it,” he said. “As long as it’s in my hands I feel I can make plays.”

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