Charles White, USC’s 1979 Heisman Trophy-winning tailback who helped lead the Trojans to a share of the 1978 national championship, died Wednesday in Newport Beach of cancer at age 64, the university announced.
White holds USC’s career rushing record with 6,245 yards, including 2,050 in 1979. White set 22 NCAA, Pac-10, USC and Rose Bowl records.
White rushed for 1,859 yards as a junior in 1978, helping USC to a 12-1 record and the coaches’ poll version of the national championship.
The Trojans concluded the season with a 17-10 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl, where White shared MVP honors, rushing for a game-high 99 yards on 32 carries, including a disputed touchdown in the second quarter, when an official initially ruled that White had fumbled the ball away on the Wolverines’ 1-yard line. Another official ruled the run was a touchdown.
White concluded his USC career by rushing for a record-247 yards on 39 carries, including the game-winning 1-yard touchdown run with one minute, 32 seconds to play, in a 17-16 victory over previously undefeated Ohio State in the 1980 Rose Bowl. White was again selected as the game’s MVP.
The Trojans finished the season 11-0-1 and were second in both polls behind Alabama.
“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.”
White is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.
White was chosen by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 1980 NFL draft, the 27th overall selection. He played with the Browns through 1984 and with the Rams from 1985-88, leading the NFL in rushing in 1987.
Following his playing career, White returned to USC in 1990 as a special assistant to then-athletic director Mike McGee. When Robinson returned to USC as its football coach in 1993, White became the Trojans’ running backs coach, a position he held through 1997. He then held an administrative job at USC.
White is survived by his former wife, Judianne White-Basch, their five children and one granddaughter.
Memorial service details are pending.