JOHNS CREEK - These days, that familiar smile flashes most often when one of his pupils finally does something they didn't think they could.
"It's just Coach Roddy. I can't be 'Coach White,' that's an old man slogan," said former Falcons wide receiver Roddy White.
Atlanta's all-time leading receiver is now a leader in a very different way -- enjoying his first spring practice as a high school football assistant coach, charged with the wide receivers at Johns Creek High School.
"I thought someone told me that as a joke," said Johns Creek rising senior receiver and tight end Tommy Tremble. "When he finally came in the meeting room, he just sort of walked in all casual. I used to wear his jersey when I was little! It was sort of crazy, you know."
White says he's still learning, including the offense that the Gladiators run, and how to teach that to players at a lot of different levels. Some, like Tremble, are getting attention from Division I colleges; while others are still learning the game.
"You only have such a small window, it's not like the pros where you have all day," said White. "These guys go to school, they've got to be home by a certain time. Time's limited."
Players were obviously wide-eyed at first, but now getting tips from a 4-time Pro Bowler feels normal. White comes early to practice to help fine-tune mechanics and can be heard hammering home training tips as the Gladiators run through 11-on-11 drills, specifically when his receivers start looking for the ball too early.
"He's very humble," said Johns Creek head coach Matt Helmerich. "He doesn't talk a lot about what he's done or all the accolades he's received over the years. Just wants to help."
One common question is: why coach? White could be on a beach somewhere instead of sweating on the turf for several hours a day. He says job number one after pro football is his family, but coaching has always felt like a calling.
"Man, I just love being around kids," said White. "Trying to help these guys get to whatever level they want to play football at."
White says he misses some parts of being an NFL player -- though offseason workouts are not one of them. His long-term coaching goals are, as he likely expects from his players, very team-oriented.
"Winning," said White. "I want to win a state championship. I want to see these guys win the region and stuff like that. They've already been winning around here, in the playoffs, they've got a lot of good players. I just want to continue the success out here."