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Senior football standout MacArthur White wasn't quite ready to end his football career.
The wide receiver from Zion, Ill. became the first-ever Lakeland College football player to appear on the American Football Coaches Association's Division III all-star team representing the United States against the Mexican National Team in the 2007 Aztec Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 8, in Chihuahua, Mexico, helping Team USA to a 37-19 victory.
"It was like a dream come true for me," said White of playing in the Aztec Bowl. "Coming from a smaller school like Lakeland, I never thought I'd make it to the Aztec Bowl. The atmosphere was the best I have ever played in. We played in a stadium that held 20,000 people, so I was a little nervous going in, but more confident than nervous. I have been playing this game my whole life, so I just wanted to get out there and play hard."
White, who finished as Lakeland's all-time leader in career receiving yards and led the Illini-Badger Football Conference in catches and receiving yards per game this season, did not record any receptions at wide receiver in the game, but he put forth a solid effort for Team USA on special teams with a total of 98 yards on four kick returns, including a long of 31 yards.
"I was happy with how I played," White said. "I probably could have broke the tackle on the first one, but my roommate's guy got loose and tripped me up a little bit. He and I still joke about that, and I have kept in touch with him."
Although Team USA was the first to get on the board with a 3-0 lead early, Mexico came back with touchdown to lead, 7-3, by the end of the first quarter.
"We went up, 3-0, in the beginning, and when they came back and scored we got a little nervous," White said. "But, once we relaxed we were able to put the game out of reach."
White and his teammates did that in the second quarter, racking up a 23-7 lead by halftime. Mexico would come back to register a pair of field goals to cut the lead to 23-14 by the end of the third quarter, but Team USA would answer back with a pair of touchdowns to secure the win. USA finished the game with an impressive 397 yards in total offense - 206 through the air and 191 rushing.
The win makes the fourth year in a row that Team USA has won the Aztec Bowl over Mexico. The Aztec Bowl is the traditional season-ending game for Mexico's college football season. The game has been played 36 times since 1947 with the last 10 contests featuring the United States-Mexico match-up.
"You can't ask for anything better than to go out on top," said White of closing out his collegiate career at the Aztec Bowl. "We (Lakeland) went out on top of our conference, and to top it off with this was just the best."
White also developed friendships with his USA teammates during his week-long stay in Mexico in preparation for the big game.
"Getting to meet all of the guys on the team and the coaches was the best part," White said. "The other 49 guys on the team that I met were great because I got to hear about their past experiences, but it was tough battling with the other receivers. Everyone wants to be the best, and we would challenge each other and battle during practices. Overall our talent was pretty much the same, and we all got to play equal time in the game."
White and his teammates also got a taste of the culture and lifestyle in their host city, creating lasting memories.
"The whole experience was very different," White said. "The town we were in (Chihuahua) was great because the people were so excited about the event. They made it really comfortable for us. We also went to the Mayor's house, and he was really nice to us and served us a big buffet."
Although White's sparkling college career may have come to an end, the talented receiver has feelers out to take his abilities to the professional level.
"Coach (Kevin) Doherty is trying to get in contact with some scouts to see if we can get something going," White said. "I'm also looking into playing ball overseas or in the arena league to stay involved in football in some way."
For complete Aztec Bowl stats, please click here.