Charles White, the legendary running back and winner of the 1979 Heisman Trophy, died Wednesday, the University of Southern California announced. He was 64.
White, a tailback who still holds the Trojans’ record for career rushing leader with 6,245 yards, died of cancer in Newport Beach, California, according to USC. He played for nine years in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and the Los Angeles Rams.
“He was the toughest player I’ve ever coached,” said John Robinson, who coached White at USC and with the Los Angeles Rams. “He was really unusual in that regard. He was a great player and just loved playing the game. Those are the things I remember the most. He was a really tough guy, and he was an extremely gifted athlete. But the toughness … wow!”
“Charles White was one of the all-time great Trojans,” USC athletic director Mike Bohn said. “A Rose Bowl legend, a two-time unanimous All-American and an NCAA record-setter, he made USC proud donning the Cardinal and Gold.”
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Southern California tailback Charles White puts his arms around the Heisman Trophy won by O.J. Simpson in 1968 after White was announced as the winner of the 1979 Heisman Trophy, Dec. 3, 1979, in Los Angeles.
(AP Photo/Wally Fong)
White, a Los Angeles native, was a two-time All-American, won a national title in 1978 and claimed the Heisman in the following season. In 1979, he also captained the Trojans and led the nation in yards rushing. White also won the Walter Camp, Maxwell and Pop Warner Awards after his senior season.
White won the Rose Bowl’s most valuable player in the 1978 and 1979 seasons and was USC’s third of record eight Heisman winners. The school is often referred to as Tailback U.
Cleveland selected White with the 27th overall pick in the 1980 draft. He played for the team for five years, although he missed the entire 1983 season due to injury.
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Southern California tailback Charles White (12) carries for a first down against Stanford during an NCAA college football game in Los Angeles, Oct. 13, 1979.
Southern California tailback Charles White carries against Michigan during the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game in Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 1, 1979.
In 1985, he joined the Rams and played four more seasons with Robinson.
White finished his NFL career with 3,075 yards rushing.
After retiring from the NFL, he coached USC’s running backs from 1993-97 — again under Robinson, who had returned to the Trojans.
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College Football: USC Charles White (12) in action, rushing vs Alabama. Birmingham, AL 9/23/1978
(Heinz Kluetmeier /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
USC’s Charles White, winner of the 1979 Heisman Trophy, puts his arm around the same trophy won by O.J. Simpson during press conference 12/3. White, the third Trojan to win the award, finished the regular season with 1,803 yards on the ground, the most in the nation.
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White is survived by his ex-wife, Judianne White-Basch, their five children, and a granddaughter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.