ST. PAUL, Minn. — There is a downside to being a Super Bowl hero.
For James White, it’s living in the present as outside forces try dragging you back to the past.
Not that White would have anything to complain about if Super Bowl 51 ultimately is remembered as the peak of his NFL career. His overtime touchdown in New England’s 34-28 victory over Atlanta capped one of the greatest all-around performances by a running back in postseason history.
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Video of White crossing the goal line on a two-yard run and triggering the confetti at Houston’s NRG Stadium is in heavy rotation as part of the hype surrounding New England’s return championship-game appearance Sunday against Philadelphia. Some of the footage airing on TV caught White's eye just hours before he attended Monday night's Super Bowl interview session with his teammates at the Xcel Center.
"They show the stuff all the time," he said.
What does he think when he sees it?
"I turn my head," a laughing White responded. "I don't like getting caught up in all that stuff. I focus on the now."
It's probably the healthiest approach, even though "now" isn't anywhere near as glamorous as then.
White's tour-de-force performance against Atlanta included three scores and a Super Bowl-record 14 receptions for 110 yards. He was so impressive in helping New England overcome a 25-point deficit that game MVP winner Tom Brady proclaimed White was a more worthy recipient of the award.
Several weeks of media tours celebrating White's moment in the sun followed before he began training for the 2017 season.
"It's a pretty indescribable feeling,” White said. “I really can't put it into words. Everything you dream about as a kid to have the ball in your hands to win a championship, that’s a pretty special moment between my teammates and me."
The Patriots signed White to a four-year, $12.7 million contract extension just before last April's draft. Even with New England adding veteran running backs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead during the offseason, White seemed poised to carve an even bigger niche at age 25 after showcasing his skills on the sport’s biggest stage.
It hasn't happened.
White’s 2017 regular-season statistics — 43 carries for 171 yards and 56 catches for 429 yards and three scores — were nearly identical to those of his 2016 campaign, with Dion Lewis remaining New England’s featured running back.
But if this is chafing White, he isn't showing it even though his profile is now much higher.
"It's a little different," White said of his third Super Bowl appearance in four NFL seasons. "Obviously there’s more attention and what not. I'm the same person. I try to be humble and make the most of my opportunities.
"I know a lot of people wish they were in this position here. I just try to do the best I can to be a good example in the community and be a spiritual person, too."
The Patriots didn't seem to have a prayer of winning Super Bowl 51 until offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels adjusted his unit’s attack to feature White more prominently.
The roots of such preparedness for the moment began growing at White's Fort Lauderdale high school (St. Thomas Acquinas), where he played in a complementary role splitting carries with current Bengals running back Gio Bernard. More running back-by-committee followed at the University of Wisconsin and after the Patriots made him a 2014 fourth-round draft pick.
"I know my role each and every time I step out there on game day," White said. "That can change in the middle of the game. I just accept my role and try to make the most of the opportunities I get.
"I think that's how it is for most guys on this team. One game you may play 10 snaps and in another you may play 70. You just don’t really know. You just have to be ready for the moment."
There are signs that White's next starring moment could come against the Eagles. Recovered from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the final two regular-season games, White has returned to score three touchdowns on his 14 touches in New England’s playoff victories over Tennessee and Jacksonville.
"This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league," White said. "You've got to always prove yourself. Each time I step on the field I try to make the most of the opportunity."
Might another one be waiting Sunday?
"Your guess is as good as mine," White said with a smile.
Alex Marvez can be heard from 9 a.m. to noon ET Sunday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.