James White finished off the performance of a lifetime by capping a comeback for the ages.
The former Wisconsin running back scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime Sunday to hand his New England Patriots an unlikely championship in Super Bowl LI, completing the largest comeback in the game's history — a rally fueled largely by White's record-setting effort.
His 2-yard dive across the goal line lifted New England to a 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons — the Patriots' first lead in a game they trailed by 25 points before storming back to force the first overtime period in Super Bowl history.
White scored three touchdowns to match the Super Bowl record and also contributed a two-point conversion for the Patriots, giving him a Super Bowl-record 20 points scored. He also set a Super Bowl record with 14 receptions for 110 yards and added another 29 rushing yards on six carries.
"You've got to always be ready," said White, who owns the Badgers' career record for receiving yards by a running back, with 670. "Running the ball, catching the ball, I was going to do whatever I needed to do to help this team."
White won three Big Ten championships while rushing for 4,015 yards and 45 touchdowns with the Badgers from 2010-13. He's now earned a second Super Bowl ring in three NFL seasons, though he was inactive for New England's win in Super Bowl XLIX during his rookie year.
No one was more active inside NRG Stadium on Sunday.
White provided the initial spark for the Patriots, who fell behind 28-3 when Atlanta's Tevin Coleman scored on a 6-yard pass from league MVP Matt Ryan with 8:31 left in the third quarter. Staring down that 25-point deficit, the Patriots put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with White catching a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady, who went on to collect his fourth Super Bowl MVP honor.
After a Stephen Gostkowski field goal drew the Patriots within two scores — albeit a 16-point deficit at 28-12 — White stepped up again when the Patriots' hopes hinged on him. Brady found Danny Amendola on a 6-yard TD pass and then White converted the crucial two-point conversion to draw the Patriots within a touchdown, making the score 28-20 with 5:56 to play in regulation.
When they got the ball back, the Patriots proceeded to go 91 yards in just 2:33 and, again, it was White that came through with the big play. His 1-yard touchdown run capped the 10-play scoring drive and set the stage for another must-have two-point conversion, which Amendola converted to force overtime.
Brady was able to engineer another long drive when the Patriots took the ball to start the extra session, driving New England to the 2 yard line to set up White's game-winning score.
"We knew we were in the game the whole time," White said. "(We knew at halftime) we'll be in a position to take that shot to win the game."
White became just the third player in Super Bowl history to record a rushing touchdown and touchdown reception in the same game, joining San Francisco 49ers running backs Ricky Watters (Super Bowl XXIX) and Roger Craig (Super Bowl XIX).
White's win marks the fourth-consecutive year in which a Badgers product has won a Super Bowl.
Photo: Wisconsin Badgers
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