White's eye for talent provides big returns for Lions

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Sheldon White, the Lions' vice president of pro personnel, has played a vital role in the construction of the team's roster in recent years, and general manager Martin Mayhew gave a ringing endorsement of the man who could one day become a GM.

"He's always looking; he's always in his office evaluating tape and trying to find players that can help us win," Mayhew said Thursday. "I think he'd be a great general manager in the National Football League. I think he'd do a phenomenal job of it, and I hope he gets an opportunity."

Earlier this week, White was among the candidates for the GM opening in Philadelphia, but the job is a less appealing opportunity after a front-office shakeup resulted in coach Chip Kelly having final say on personnel decisions. According to multiple reports, the candidate pool includes executives Chris Grier (Miami), Chris Polian (Jacksonville) and Brian Gaine (Houston).

A defensive back for six seasons with the Giants, Lions and Bengals, White has been with the Lions' scouting department since 1997, became the director of pro personnel in 2000 and was promoted to his current position in 2009.

There has yet to be confirmation of White interviewing in Philadelphia, but Mayhew provided some examples of how White, 49, has helped the Lions.

"He's been phenomenal," Mayhew said. "He's exceptional at what he does, outstanding evaluator. There's a lot of guys on this roster that he brought to the table."

Among those players were cornerback Rashean Mathis, who started 29 games the last two years, and defensive end George Johnson, who had six sacks in 2014.

"Rashean Mathis was a guy, for example, that he saw on tape and when (White) brought up his desire to work Rashean out, I was against it," Mayhew said. "I was saying, 'This is an older guy, how's this guy going to help us?' And he talked me into working him out, and he had a phenomenal work out. He was exceptional in every way shape and form, and so we ended up signing him, and obviously he's worked out great for us the last two years."

Mathis, 34, had 51 tackles this season; the Lions' pass defense ranked No. 13 in the NFL at 232 yards per game.

Mayhew added: "George Johnson was a guy he brought to me who I had never seen. When we signed him, I had never seen him on tape at the time that we signed him. As you know, George was a big time contributor for us."