White honored by Falcons, National Guard

Photo courtesy AtlantaFalcons.com

At the Collins Hill-Habersham Central game Friday in Suwanee, a person who is very important to the Collins Hill community was honored. Keaston White, a former Eagles football player, was honored before the game by the Atlanta Falcons and the National Guard for being an inspiration to many. White was named “Hometown Hero” and was given a customized game ball and military coin by representatives of the National Guard and the Falcons cheerleaders.

Keaston went to school on Sept. 11, 2001 when his life and the lives of his country were changed forever. The terrorist attacks that occurred on that infamous day shook this country to the core and made it hard to make sense of everything that was happening. The one thing that makes sense for many young people, that helps bring stability to their lives, is athletics. Despite the tragedy in New York, the Collins Hill football team went out to practice that afternoon and Keaston wanted to work hard for his team.

He lined up at cornerback for the first time that afternoon, as he primarily played safety. Keaston described the play to me himself.

“We were out on the field and I had not been starting yet because I had a pulled hamstring almost immediately prior, but they wanted someone to play corner that was fast enough and could hit hard enough so I was nominated,” he said. “I laid out a few guys, then one play the other guy was coming around and I went in and my head went down.”



Keaston doesn’t remember that much from that play 12 years ago, but he remembers on the ride to the hospital that he felt like his cleats were still on even though they had been taken off. He felt tightness in his feet that made it seem like they were still on. He had fractured his fifth vertebrae and the diagnosis was an incomplete C5 quadriplegic.

After three months in the hospital he went to Shepherd Center where he did physical therapy and occupational therapy inpatient, and eventually outpatient for a couple weeks. When asked what life was like the months after rehab Keaston explained his struggle.

“It was difficult,” he explained. “I had lost a lot of weight. Growing up I was skinny. I worked really hard in eighth grade in weight training and it was extremely hard to put weight on. By the beginning of ninth grade, I was 195 pounds.”

As far as school went, Keaston had to do half of his work over the phone and half in school.

Keaston graduated from Collins Hill in the top 10 percent of his class and went on to study at Emory University. At Emory, he studied psychology and was an active member of their theater program. He continued his education after graduating from Emory in 2008 by attending John Marshall Law School. He managed to graduate from John Marshall in three years, and he is now working towards being an attorney.


Having a disability can easily turn someone’s outlook on life to something of a bleak nature. For the past 12 years, Keaston has been nothing but tenacious in his approach to his life.

“First off, I have a great support system,” Keaston said. “My dad has always been a champion for me. Mother was always there pushing me forward. Second, I get depressed moments. I get anxious, but my default is to not stay there. Letting (depression) be your whole life is counterproductive. I don’t have time for it, and I don’t have a use for it.”

Collins Hill retired Keaston’s number shortly after he graduated, but this year they are bringing it back. Head coach Kevin Reach explained that they wanted to honor Keaston and his drive to work hard. “Ari Benoit is wearing Keaston’s number in his honor this year,” Reach said. “We’re going to have the top player coming out of spring practice get the option to wear the No. 6 in honor of Keaston, you know, and it’s just kind of a courageous type thing.”

He has been a great example for how to react to diversity, and he has done everything he can to not let it get the best of him. Throughout his life he has put himself in situations that he might not belong in order to overcome that discrimination, but with Keaston’s determination he has proven his spirit can accomplish anything.


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