Shauna White has always wondered if her son would've been a football player.
Da'Shaun Dakota White was born prematurely on July 28, 1999, and died just two hours after his birth. Shauna now has three kids — Tre'Von, Ja'Von and Jazzmin. With Tre'Von and Ja'Von both having played high school football, Shauna doesn't doubt it could've been the same for Da'Shaun.
But every Saturday, Shauna gets a glimpse of what could've been, as she watches Da'Shaun's namesake, Oklahoma linebacker DaShaun White, take the field.
"All my kids, they’re all athletes. I always wondered if my Da’Shaun would’ve been big in football like my two boys are," said Shauna, 38. "To hear his name on TV, I’m like, ‘That could’ve been my son.’”
Because she has family members who graduated from Oklahoma, Shauna and her family in Bealeton, Virginia, watch Oklahoma football games every Saturday. And when head coach Lincoln Riley got a signature from White in 2018 to join the Sooners, Shauna's mother took notice.
“We’re big Oklahoma fans," Shauna said. "(My mom) said that they recruited a guy from Texas and his name is DaShaun White, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you serious?’ It was crazy.”
In his freshman year, White -- from North Richland Hills, Texas -- played five games. This season, White has started all 12 games for the Sooners so far, and has tallied 46 total tackles in a defense that has climbed from 101st in total defense in the FBS to 21st. The Sooners are on their way to a fifth consecutive Big 12 Championship game on Saturday and are just outside of the College Football Playoff top four.
As games become more important and OU's defensive success increases, Shauna hears White's name on TV more often. So, Shauna reached out to White on Instagram on the Thursday before OU's 28-24 win over TCU back on Nov. 23, and told him about Da'Shaun.
White responded and said he'd dedicate the TCU game to Da'Shaun. On game day, White painted the name Dakota -- the other Da'Shaun's middle name -- under his right eye. The day after the game, Tre'Von zoomed in on a picture of White in uniform, found the face paint and showed it to Shauna, who shared what White did on social media Saturday.
More than just football. 🖤 https://t.co/Bszutk87Do— DaShaun White (@dmw23_) December 2, 2019
“It was just one of those things that really touched my heart," White said. "All my life I wanted to be a lot more than just a football player, to definitely use this platform to impact people. I saw a clear opportunity to touch someone. It wasn’t hard for me to do something so small.
"I'm surprised I saw that," White said, "because I don't really go through the separate messages on Instagram. But I'm happy I did."
Over 1,000 miles away, Shauna was in tears.
"It meant everything because he didn’t have to do it," Shauna said. "He didn’t have to go out of his way to do that, something so small. It might just be something small but it means a lot to us.”
Playing in his second season with the Sooners, White understands what his time in Oklahoma means not just for his team, but to those who watch the Sooners every week.
"... Always having preached just the power of your image and stuff like that, it wasn't new to me when I got here," White said. "It was something that I've been preached for some time now from some really important people in my life.
"I mean, it's one of those things, it sort of leaves me speechless ... With something that's so much more important than my play on the football field, it leaves me speechless."