Former USC RB Charles White, 1979 Heisman Trophy winner, dies at age 64
Charles White, USC’s 1979 Heisman Trophy winner who had a nine-year NFL career, died Wednesday. according to his alma mater. He was 64 years old.
USC did not release a cause of death, but White did The Los Angeles Times reported last July to fight dementia
White’s lasting legacy came almost entirely from Los Angeles, where he was a four-year star at USC and much later a Pro Bowler. Los Angeles Rams. He found early success with the Trojans, rushing for a career-high 858 yards as a freshman and a Pac-8-leading 1,478 rushing yards as a sophomore.
His junior and senior seasons were even more successful. He was the center of USC’s 1978 national championship team, then took home college football’s top honor in 1979 after rushing for 2,050 yards and 19 touchdowns.
White remains the Pac-12’s all-time rushing yardage leader with 6,245 yards and is No. 2 in the NCAA. He graduated from the position. He remains fifth on the NCAA list if you count his bowl game performances.
After his successful college career, he chose White Cleveland Browns With the 27th pick in the 1980 NFL draft. His pro career would unfortunately have more downs than ups as he never rushed for more than 350 yards in a season in his five years with the Browns.
According to The Times, White was using marijuana and cocaine when he entered the NFL, but his drug use became a significant problem during his time with the Browns, along with injuries. He was eventually released by the Browns in 1985 and returned to Los Angeles with the Rams, where his former USC coach, John Robinson, became head coach.
White’s troubles continued in LA, hitting rock bottom in 1987 when he was found high on cocaine near the Rams’ practice complex and arrested on misdemeanor charges. According to the Times. Robinson held on to his old player, however, working out a deal with the NFL for White to continue his career while being drug tested frequently.
That faith was rewarded the following season, when White rushed for an NFL-high 1,374 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning his first and only career All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, and the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
Zuri’s career lasted one more season after that. He was suspended four games in 1988 after testing positive for alcohol, violating his contract with the NFL, and announced his retirement the following season, losing his starting job. In retirement he worked at USC as special assistant to the athletic director, running backs coach and unspecified administrative work.
According to USC, White is survived by his ex-wife Judianne White-Basch and their children Nicole, Julian, Tara, Ashton and Sophia and his granddaughter Giovanna Hemmen.
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