A year away from football was never part of Evan White's plan, but it may wind up being the best thing to happen to him.
Dismissed from the Colorado football team in January of 2016, White returned to CU and the team this January, determined to make the most of a second chance.
"I'm definitely refocused," White said after the Buffs wrapped up spring drills last month. "When I was here before, you would take stuff for granted, just be going through the motions. Now I'm here paying attention, doing everything I'm supposed to and just being on top of everything."
A junior safety from Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, White received high praise from teammates and coaches throughout the spring.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre said White returned to the team "more mature" than before, when he served a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules in 2015 before getting dismissed from the team.
Part of that maturity stems from his dismissal from the team. Last summer, White told Buffzone.com that it was an eye opener and disappointing, but he vowed to "take this as a positive."
White also gained some maturity and life perspective when he became a father on Sept. 24 — the day CU stunned Oregon, 41-38.
"It just really changed my whole perspective," he said. "Being a father now, I have to be able to support my child, so it's just now working every day so I can make it to the next level.
"My mind is focused on just getting better at every aspect."
On the field, White made an immediate impression on new secondary coach ShaDon Brown.
"The pleasant surprise this spring has been Evan White," Brown said. "He is a big, fast, strong, athletic guy."
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, White is about 15 pounds heavier than when he last played in 2015, spending the year off adding muscle to his athletic frame.
"I'm definitely feeling it in a good way," he said. "I haven't lost my speed."
White, who played in 22 games during his first two years at CU, is viewed not only as an option at either safety spot, but also at CU's "Buff back" position - a safety/outside linebacker hybrid.
"I like Buff, because I'm able to rush, I'm able to get to the quarterback and get into the backfield and make some plays," White said.
Senior Ryan Moeller is a returning starter at Buff, but has been pushed by an improved White.
"Evan, it's great to have him back," Moeller said. "I see him as doing a great job at really anything he wants to. He has the size and the speed to do it, so if he can get it down mentally, he can be a force."
Mentally and physically, White is as strong as ever, and he could be a key to CU's success on defense this season.
"It feels amazing to be back," he said.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.