AUBURN — Most halls of fame induct sports personalities in one of three categories: Athlete, coach or contributor.

Don White might be the first man in the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame worthy of the honor in all three criteria.

As a player, he was a starting utility man on the last University of Maine football team invited to a postseason bowl game, the 1965 Tangerine Bowl squad.

“That whole year I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” White said.

White, the coach, honed the skills of multiple All-American and national championship gymnasts in a 24-year career.

“When I say I was lucky, I’m not just saying that,” he said.

And his contribution to the Twin Cities sporting landscape — Andy Valley School of Gymnastics — still stands.

One of his most accomplished former students, Rod Gendron, bought the business in 1999 and shepherds local youth into state and regional success in the sport each year.

“I met a lot of outstanding coaches and tried to be like a sponge and learn as much as I could,” White said. “They used to ask me how I did it, and I told them they were the ones who taught me everything I knew.”

He might consider it a collective accomplishment, but White will accept his hometown’s greatest individual athletic honor Sunday at Lost Valley.

White is the fourth member of his immediate family to merit a place in the hall.

His uncle, Harold, was part of the second induction class in 1985. Father John W. (2002) and brother John F. (2009) also are enshrined.

The journey had humble beginnings. Heading into his sophomore season at Maine and anticipating his first opportunity to play, White was sidelined by a late-summer bout with mononucleosis.

Luckily for White, he wasn’t the only Black Bear having trouble staying healthy. White was cleared to play the Friday before Maine’s third game of the season.

Upon cheerfully conveying the news to coach Walter Abbott, he received an unexpected message in return.

“Walt said, ‘Good, because you’re starting at defensive tackle.’ It was our homecoming game my sophomore year, and that was really my first experience in college ball,” White recalled.

Maine upset heavily favored Massachusetts, 14-6, in White’s initial start.

White was back in the lineup a week later when Maine traveled to Boston University. Again, the Black Bears were a decided underdog but shut out the Terriers, 18-0.

“Everybody thought it had been a fluke, but we won again,” White said. “That kind of set the tone.”

After one more week at defensive tackle, White moved to nose guard and spelled another injured starter for three weeks there.

Then the starting offensive left tackle went down. Abbott called upon White to fill the void and help protect all-New England quarterback Dick DeVarney.

White’s whirlwind tour fit the Black Bears’ personality perfectly. DeVarney and future NFL linebacker John Huard were the stars. Others embraced their roles.

“We had two or three great players at the skill positions, and the rest of us kind of filled in the gaps,” White said. “The Tangerine Bowl certainly was a thrill, unexpected by everyone. We had a lot of great individuals with great character.”

Given his choice of where to start as a senior captain in 1967, White selected center.

He stayed in the game as a high school assistant coach, serving two years at Westbrook under Jack Dawson before spending six years on Lawrence “Doc” Hersom’s staff at alma mater Edward Little.

During the stint at EL, a casual interest from his high school and college days evolved into a passion. White started a gymnastics team at the school.

In 1976, he turned it into a business enterprise, launching Andy Valley.

“That took me all over the map,” White said. “I was blessed with so many great athletes. They made me look better than I really was.”

Kristen Kenoyer of Whitefield led the University of Utah to two NCAA championships and earned 14 All-America honors.

Lewiston’s Gendron and Peter Landry were All-Americans at Ohio State, with Landry winning a national title in 1996.

“At one time I think we had eight individuals in our gym who eventually earned Division I scholarships,” White said. “That’s pretty darn rewarding when you work with a kid and they can say, ‘OK, Mom and Dad, you don’t have to pay anything for me to go to college.’ ”

Now in real estate, White continues to work with gyms in the region as a consultant. He sees the same self-motivation and willingness to learn that prevailed when he taught the sport full-time.

White recalled one student making the six-hour round trip from Lincoln as many as four times a week, never missing a practice. Another from Bingham followed a similar itinerary.

“What coach wouldn’t be successful if he were blessed with that kind of talent? You’d have to work hard to screw that up,” he said.

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