Distance no issue for this friendship

EUGENE, Ore. - It's just a typical Sunday afternoon in March. For Curtis White, a senior-to-be at Sheldon High, his spring break is about to end. Life is good for White, even though he's still on his way back from shoulder surgery that revealed a torn labrum and chipped bone.

The 6-foot-4.5, 250-pound tight end for the Irish, the No. 4 DE rated by Scout.com, dreams of catching touchdown passes at Autzen Stadium, and has already verbally committed to the Oregon Ducks.

But on this day it's not so much about football, even though he's at Oregon's Moshofsky Center. After working out at a Barton Football camp with teammate Jordan Johnson, White heads home to meet up with a friend. Pretty typical stuff, until you find out his friend is - Aaron Dunn.

So what makes this meeting so unique? Well, Dunn lives in Spokane, Wash., not exactly next door to Eugene. And moreover, Dunn is rated by Scout.com as the No. 8 tight end in the country.

And the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder from Mead High School is verbally committed to Washington State to play football.

Make no mistake; this is not a chance encounter between two freakishly athletic talents. This friendship goes a lot deeper, and watching the two interact it's easy to see why they get along so well. Their Pac-10 roots extend all the way to Kalispell, Montana, when Dunn got a phone call a year ago from another friend - current Arizona State quarterback signee Brock Osweiler.

"He called me up and asked me what I was doing for spring basketball, and I told him that I wasn't playing until the summer," Dunn told Scout.com recently. So Osweiler and Dunn hooked up with the Portland Legends, an AAU hoops team that also featured players like Abdul Gaddy, Anthony Brown and even Avery Bradley for a time.

Curtis White was also a member of the Legends. Soon the two found themselves in a mall in Houston, Tex. during an AAU tournament, and they weren't talking basketball. It was all about football. And White followed Dunn to a Gonzaga basketball camp in July and their friendship continued to grow.

"I heard he was committed to Oregon from a kid on the team," Dunn remembered. "Washington State hadn't offered me at that point, but they were recruiting me pretty hard and I was wondering what I could do to get this kid to come to Pullman. And he was trying to get me to come to Eugene."

White made his pledge known back in February, shortly after 2008's Signing Day. He won't sign until 2010.

"They pulled me in as a sophomore and said they wanted to offer me at whatever position I wanted to play," White said of Oregon's staff. It was a no-brainer for White, who was turned onto the program long before his football career took off. It happened when the Ducks took a liking to his younger brother Tyson, who was battling leukemia. They took him in and brought him to their practices, where he got to meet players from both the football and basketball teams. It clearly struck a major chord with Tyson's big brother. Tyson will have been gone four years this coming November, but his memory lives on in Curtis.

"I got to know (Oregon) coach (Mike) Bellotti at a young age," White added. "I just saw everything they did for all the kids, including my family - and I liked it."

And he's not shy about putting his recruiting pitch on Dunn. "I'm trying to get him to come down here, but he's pretty committed," White said with a chuckle.

Right before that Gonzaga camp last summer, Dunn traveled south to Pullman, and was offered that coveted scholarship. It's the offer he wanted, as both his parents went to Washington State, and he also had a strong bond with first-year Head Coach Paul Wulff during his time as head coach at Eastern Washington.

A verbal commitment soon followed.

Both White and Dunn expected huge junior seasons, but injury hampered their effectiveness. In the case of Dunn, a helmet against his knee - the result of an illegal chop block against Gonzaga Prep - blew out his ACL, MCL and lateral meniscus. "Didn't even get flagged," Dunn said, shaking his head.

Despite only playing four-and-a-half games for the Panthers, Dunn still came up with eight sacks. He had surgery in November. "It's going well," Dunn said of his rehabilitation. "I'm running, light cuts, little jumps."

"So let's see it," a smiling White motioned to Dunn, half-joking, half-serious. But he has his own issues.

White finished the year with nine sacks for Sheldon, and did it with a ripped-up shoulder. White had surgery after the season to repair a torn labrum where bone had broken off. "It had cut the ligament," he said. "It was kind of gross. I played with it for two years without knowing. (The shoulder) would just pop out of socket, and I'd pop it back in and play."

He has also been cleared to lift and run.

While their seasons were going on, the conversations increased. "During the Oregon-Washington State game I was letting (Dunn) have it," White said. First, it was about the uniforms. Russell? We have wings on."

Getting dinged up hasn't hurt their stock: Dunn has standing football offers from Washington State and Fresno State, as well as basketball offers from Portland State and Saint Mary's. White has offers from Oregon, Oregon State, LSU, California, Duke, North Carolina and UCLA.

In a bit of an ironic twist, the UO-bound White will go to California's Junior Day with teammate Johnson, and then will attend the Nike camp in Eugene with Dunn, as well as Oregon's camp. And to reciprocate, White will travel to Pullman to take part in Washington State's camp.

"Hopefully, even if we don't go to the same school, we just stay friends and talk to each other a couple of times a week," White said, also envisioning a dream scenario where the two shake hands with the scoreboard reading: Oregon 60, Washington State 3.

Dunn just shakes his head and laughs.

Eventually talk moves to another dream scenario, the two playing in the NFL someday. "We always talk about that," Dunn said. White gives Dunn some grief about him playing left tackle by then, and Dunn pipes back up about White probably playing center.

"I'm probably closer to left tackle, aren't I?" White counters. That gets a big laugh from both.

The back and forth is genuine, as if the two have been the best of friends for years and years. It's a friendship that was forged on the hardwood and reinforced on the football field, even if only from a distance.

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