How LHS football is Honoring Graduate Ricky White

Kali Reed, Reporter

Ricky White on the practice field is a place he always felt at home.  (Kali Reed)

LHS Senior Rikervin “Ricky” Encarnacion will trade his number 0 for number 7 in Friday night’s game, October 28, 2022, against the Shrewsbury Colonials to honor the late Ricky White, a 1998 graduate of Leominster High School.

White passed away suddenly at the age of 42 on Saturday, October 22nd. In the days that have followed the indelible mark he left on the Leominster football community as a player, coach and mentor have been on full display. 

But why does one choose to honor another when they have passed? 

What is the significance of a simple gesture? 

For Encarnacion, the decision to wear number seven on Friday night was an easy one.

 “I was in shock when I heard the news. My first thought was for his family, his son Keegan and all of the kids he coached and people he touched, and how everyone would be so sad.” Ricky continued, “When I heard he wore number 7 in high school and the number meant a lot to him, I thought it was something small I could do to honor his memory.” 

White entered the halls of LHS a youth football star and exited as a champion after leading the 1997 Blue Devils to a division one Central/ Western Mass Super Bowl 45-13 over Holyoke High School. 

Wearing number 7, White was a team captain and two-way starter as a senior. A fullback on offense and a cornerback on defense. 

Those who remembered his playing days said he had a special energy and bounce in his step on the field. 

As you dig deeper, White and Encarnacion shared more than a first name and playing style.

 Both moved to Leominster at a young age, both starred in Leominster Pop Warner as youth, both served as team captain Senior year, both volunteered with kids in the community, and both possessed an infectious smile and a warm embrace to those they came into contact with. 

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that had a negative word to say about either Ricky. 

“He was just always so positive. His laugh and smile were so infectious,” said Encarnacion. 

In the 25 years since that Championship season, White was a regular on Friday nights at Doyle field, cheering on the next generation of Blue Devils from his place upon the hill next to the scoreboard. 

According to those who knew him well, there were very few people who cared as much about LHS football and the kids playing as White did. Encarnacion shared his memories of White’s weekly words of wisdom. “Every Saturday morning at flag football, coach Ricky would share his thoughts on Friday night’s game, what he liked and what he thought we could do better, but he would always find a way to hype me up no matter the game or the outcome.” 

The bond between White and Encarnacion was forged through their involvement with the Leominster Flag Football League where White’s impact was evident each week. 

Unbeknownst to White, Encarnacion was paying attention and admiring the elder Ricky. 

“I always looked forward to reffing coach Ricky’s games. His team’s were usually dominant and no one could stop the ‘stack’ play he ran. His involvement with the kids and the way they looked up to him is an example I want to carry forward into the future.” 

In this 25th anniversary season of the 1997 Blue Devils Super Bowl championship, White’s former teammates will gather and share stories of their beloved friend, leader and brother, while Encarnacion will try to end his LHS football career the same way White did – as a champion. 

But for one night, on the day Ricky White’s body is laid to rest, Ricky Encarnacion will go from number 0 in the program to a hero in the hearts of all who are impacted by White’s life. 

Heroes are remembered, but legends never die. 

And that is the significance of a simple gesture – to help ensure the legend of Ricky White lives on forever.