Pat White and Steve Slaton: A tale of fate, collegiate stardom, and newfound passions

Pat White and Steve Slaton are synonymous with college football dominance, but what happened in their pro careers, and where are they now?

Three straight 11-win seasons. Two of the greatest college football athletes of all time. One of — if not the — best backfields in the history of the sport. The Pat White and Steve Slaton Show blazed television sets nationwide from 2005-2007. For many, that’s where the series ended, as White and Slaton’s professional spin-offs came and went with little fanfare. But life beyond the field has led them to new passions and new arenas to dominate.

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Pat White and Steve Slaton: The West Virginia duo that almost didn’t happen

Captain America and Iron Man. Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. Peanut butter and jelly. What do all famous duos have in common? Chemistry. Pat White and Steve Slaton have that in spades. It’s easy to see on their podcast, “The Burning Couch.” But before they were 36-year-olds shooting the breeze in their free time, White and Slaton were the most famous duo in college football history.

Born in Daphne, Alabama, White was raised to be a winner. From a young age, he dreamt of being the next Rod Woodson, headhunting from his safety position. But once high school came, and all the other kids grew bigger, White realized being the next Woodson probably wasn’t in the cards.

So, he needed to channel his physical ability elsewhere. Thus, Pat White the offensive catalyst was born. As a senior, White led Daphne High School to 14 straight wins before falling 22-17 in the state finals. He threw for 1,488 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season, rushing for an additional 1,905 yards and 31 scores. His performance garnered all-state recognition and saw him place third in the Alabama Mr. Football voting.

However, White’s athletic gifts extended beyond the football field. On the baseball diamond, White pitched and played outfield, helping Daphne secure two state championships. He wasn’t just the product of his team, either, as the Anaheim Angels selected White in the fourth round of the 2004 MLB Draft. Yet, White passed up a six-figure salary with the Angels to further his football career.

White received offers from Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt. Although he initially committed to LSU as a wide receiver, West Virginia offered him the opportunity to stay at quarterback — an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Slaton’s off-field growth mirrors on-field speed

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Slaton grew up the way he would later play — fast. The youngest of six siblings (by a minimum of six years and a maximum of 20), Slaton had no shortage of familial inspiration to draw from. That amplified when his eldest sister Natalie succumbed to leukemia when he was in fifth grade.

Slaton carried his sister with him as he juked, spun, and out-ran varsity defenders as a freshman at Conwell-Egan Catholic High School. Four years later, he was a four-time all-conference honoree, two-time all-state first-teamer, and even starred on the track, recording the sixth-best high school long jump in the country. You’d think Slaton was a sought-after recruit with 6,002 career rushing yards and 73 touchdowns to his name. But his level of competition limited the amount of scouting in the area.

Offers from North Carolina and Rutgers sat on the table, but Slaton committed to Maryland early in his senior season. Not long after, he heard from a reporter that his scholarship had been revoked. He desperately tried to get in touch with his recruiter, James Franklin — yes, current Penn State head coach James Franklin — but didn’t hear back for weeks.

Once Slaton finally spoke with Franklin, he confirmed the news: Maryland overrecruited at running back and reneged on his scholarship. His frustrations with Maryland turned into a vendetta and a drive to prove them wrong. Only one thing: He needed a new collegiate home to do so.

At this point, many schools he had contact with filled their RB rooms. All that was left were schools who wanted Slaton to switch to the defensive side of the ball — all except for one. West Virginia swooped in late in the process and handed Slaton the opportunity to play on a scholarship at his preferred position — just as they did with White a year prior.

From backup freshmen to superstars

White and Slaton traveled two windy roads but arrived at the same destination: Morgantown. As Slaton stepped off the plane, White already had a redshirt season under his belt.

With White splitting snaps at QB, and Slaton the fourth-string RB, the Mountaineers rode to a 4-0 start. But in an eventual loss to Virginia Tech, Slaton got his first break; and he ran with it. He took 11 carries for a team-leading 90 yards. That was enough for head coach Rich Rodriguez to insert Slaton into the starting lineup the following week against Rutgers.

Slaton popped off for 139 yards and a score, cementing himself as the leader of the backfield. However, life wasn’t as high and mighty in the QB room. Splitting reps took a toll on White and tested his love for the sport. After the Rutgers game, he expressed his desire to take off the helmet and pads in favor of a baseball glove. But his father made him a deal: “You show up every day and act like you are the starter. At the end of the week, if you still feel the same way, I will bring your glove.”

It’s Week 7. New Big East member Louisville is in town. The scoreboard reads 24-7, with 11:20 remaining in the fourth quarter. Starter Adam Bednarik lays on the turf as trainers tend to his ankle. Things are looking bleak for the Mountaineers. But out of darkness comes light, and it didn’t get much brighter in Milan Puskar Stadium than that fateful night.

The White and Slaton Show was born

White donned his helmet, took warm-up snaps with his center, and jogged onto the field. Expectations were low. Fans had begun leaving the stadium. Bobby Petrino and Co. felt the game was in their hands. But White and Slaton were unfazed; all they needed was a shot. And like a sniper perched in his nest with sights on the target, they didn’t miss.

WVU scored 17 unanswered points and ultimately won a triple-overtime thriller, 46-44. In the process, Slaton set a Big East record with six total touchdowns. And it’s safe to say White wasn’t going to touch a baseball glove any time soon.

White and Slaton powered the Mountaineers to four straight victories, the second Big East title in school history, and outscored their opponents 156 to 39. And they weren’t done. West Virginia matched up against SEC champion Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, WVU’s first BCS bowl game.

After scoring 21 points in the first quarter, the Mountaineers held on to upset the Bulldogs, 38-35. White was efficient, but Slaton carried the offense, gutting Georgia’s defense for 204 yards and three scores. Slaton earned MVP, and his rushing yards set the Sugar Bowl record and were the second-most in a BCS contest. Yet, Slaton wasn’t the only one setting records.

White ended the year with 952 rushing yards, the second-most all-time among WVU freshmen and the most by a Big East QB. Despite the instant success, the 2005 season was only the beginning of the White and Slaton era.

Credit: WVU Athletics

Top Gun: West Virginia

White and Slaton pushed Rodriguez’s spread-option offense to Mach 10. The constant threat of White taking off from the pocket limited what defenses could do on the back end. And while he was never the most prolific passer, White had no issue taking the top off. It also helped having a receiver like Darius Reynaud on the outside, a hardnosed fullback paving the way in Owen Schmitt, and eventually another electric runner in Noel Devine — owner of one of the most disrespectful highlight reels you’ll ever see.

White and Slaton’s soul-snatching abilities translated to the NCAA Football video game series as well. They received 90+ ratings each year and made using WVU a cheat code, since stopping the offense was practically impossible — mirroring its real-life counterpart.

Only broken ankles, clipboards, and spirits remained when the dust settled on White and Slaton’s tenure at West Virginia. They rattled off back-to-back-to-back 11-win campaigns, capping each off with bowl victories.

But there is one game that lives infamously in the minds of WVU fans. In 2007, the Mountaineers raced to a 10-1 record and were the No. 2 team in the country. They were one win away from making their second-ever national championship appearance. All that stood in their way was a 4-7 Pitt squad who entered the 100th installment of the “Backyard Brawl” as 28-point road underdogs.

110. That’s how many yards White and Slaton produced … combined. Pitt left Morgantown with a 13-9 victory, not only tanking West Virginia’s odds of making it to the natty but marking the end of the best QB/RB pairing in college football history.

Lone ranger season

Slaton concluded his West Virginia career with 4,728 total yards, 55 total touchdowns, and numerous school and conference records. He parlayed his success into a third-round selection by the Houston Texans in the 2008 NFL Draft.

But White had another season in him. The two-time Big East Offensive Player of the Year took a step back with his running mate gone and a new head coach in place. Nevertheless, he led the Mountaineers to a 9-4 record and a Belk Bowl win over North Carolina.

With a 42-9 record, four bowl victories, 10,529 total yards, and 103 total touchdowns, it’s safe to say White belongs on the CFB Mount Rushmore. Even though he etched his name into the FBS record books with 4,480 career rushing yards as a QB, White never finished higher than sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting and was never an All-American.

As a result, he is not eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame. But in 2018, West Virginia welcomed their esteemed dynamic duo back to campus, enshrining them into their Sports Hall of Fame.

Prior to the 2009 NFL Draft, White competed in the Senior Bowl and earned the game’s MVP. It was a bit of a surreal experience for the Daphne native, as he would make the quick 15-minute trip to Mobile to watch some of the top NFL draft prospects perform each year as a kid. Now, it was his turn to follow in their footsteps — as well as Slaton’s — into the league.

Slaton’s one-year wonder in Houston

At this point, Slaton was coming off a 1,282-rushing-yard campaign, most among rookies in the 2008 season and a Texans franchise record. But instead of being the start of a promising pro career, it was already nearing the end.

Slaton bulked up for his second season, hovering around 215 pounds (20 pounds over his rookie year). The weight gain appeared to zap some of his athleticism, and he later suffered shoulder and neck injuries that led to seven fumbles and a spot on the injured reserve.

The neck injury, in particular, was worse than first imagined. It ultimately required a cervical fusion (similar to Peyton Manning’s), and Slaton never reached the heights of his rookie campaign again.

“If you can’t feel your hand in there, you can’t squeeze (the ball) as hard as you want to,” Slaton said after the 2009 season. “I tried to downplay it, but it came to a point where I had to get surgery.”

Slaton played sparingly in 2010, and Houston waived him in September 2011. The Dolphins signed him shortly after, but they sent Slaton packing again a year later. A few teams showed interest and worked him out to no avail. And just like that, Slaton’s NFL career was over … but not his professional football career.

In 2014, Slaton signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. Playing in 12 games (six starts), he registered 510 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, 46 receptions, 388 receiving yards, four receiving TDs, and 71 kick return yards. For being out of the game for two years, it was quite an impressive stat line.

White’s career carousel

The other half of the dynamic duo shared a similar roadmap. The Wildcat offense took the league by storm in the late 2000s, and Dolphins head coach Bill Parcells used it to upset the Patriots in 2008. He envisioned White running the formation and made him the fourth QB off the board with the 44th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

However, White didn’t win the starting QB battle, and the Wildcat formation Parcells praised ultimately gave a knockout blow to White’s Miami career.

White woke up with his face in the dirt and staff around him. Rewind 30 seconds, and he is in shotgun from the Wildcat against the Steelers. HIKE. The ball snaps to him. He takes a wide angle up the left sideline and gets tripped up from behind. But as his momentum carries him forward and toward the ground, in comes Ike Taylor. The helmet-to-helmet blow knocked White unconscious and forced him to leave the game on a stretcher.

The next day, White was released from the hospital and drove himself to practice. His willingness to lay his body on the line for the Dolphins didn’t carry much weight, as they waived him before the next season. In 2011, Parcells stated, “He just wasn’t a prototypical quarterback pick. He was a great college player, and we let that color our judgment.”

Today, White is the prototypical quarterback pick. While Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are still slinging, they are the last of a dying breed. Nearly every other starting QB can at least keep plays alive a couple of seconds longer with their legs. White may not have the same dynamic arm as Lamar Jackson, but his rushing ability isn’t far off. And despite all the recent social media talk, Jackson is undoubtedly a top-10 QB in the NFL — always has been.

After his release from Miami, White called his agent and said he didn’t want to play in the NFL anymore. Football broke his heart, as did a recent breakup. But what devasted White the most was his lack of belief in himself. His next few professional years were tumultuous, as he entertained a myriad of career changes.

  • 2010: MLB (Kansas City Royals)
  • 2011: United Football League (Virginia Destroyers)
  • 2012: Prepared to run for Congress, auditioned for acting roles
  • 2013: NFL (Washington Commanders), MLB (Miami Marlins)
  • 2014: CFL (Edmonton Elks)

Where are Pat White and Steve Slaton now?

White and Slaton rose to prominence together, and fittingly, they retired from professional football the same year (2015). But that’s not where their journeys end. Outside of sharing a podcast, White and Slaton have found new passions.

Following his retirement, Slaton took up cooking and enrolled in culinary school — a suitable pivot for a player well-known for roasting defenses on the gridiron. He worked for Houston chef Chris Shepherd at his restaurant “Underbelly” and is now a private chef and kitchen consultant.

“Cooking has been something that is a big part of my life for a long time,” Slaton stated. “I cooked even in college for my roommates. My parents also used to own a catering company.”

As for White, he avoided coaching for years due to his experience in the NFL, but former WVU teammate Ryan Stancheck wouldn’t let him walk away forever. White finally transitioned to coaching in 2018, joining Alcorn State as the quarterbacks coach. He spent two seasons there before a year as the running backs coach at USF and another as the QBs coach at Alabama State. White entered 2022 as the passing game coordinator and QBs coach at FCS Campbell. Yet, he wouldn’t make it through the summer with the program.

White received a call from the Los Angeles Chargers, offering him a position as an offensive assistant. And on July 25, it became official. White may have been before his time. But now, he gets to impart his dual-threat knowledge on one of the NFL’s ascending stars: Justin Herbert.

Of the many labels White and Slaton have worn over the years, one holds more gravity than the rest: Dad. Setting records came naturally for the dynamic duo. Now, they are setting examples for their children to follow.

James Fragoza is a Writer and News Editor at Pro Football Network. You can read his other work here and follow him on Twitter @JamesFragoza.

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