Charles White, the 1979 Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Southern California who remains the Trojans’ all-time leading rusher, died Wednesday (Jan. 11) in Newport Beach, Calif., of cancer. He was 64.
White is survived by his ex-wife Judianne White-Basch, their children Nicole White, Julian White, Tara White, Ashton White, Sophia White, and granddaughter Giovanna Hemmen.
A College Football Hall of Famer and a member of the Trojans’ 1978 national championship team who played nine seasons in the NFL, White was USC’s third Heisman Trophy winner.
He rushed from 6,245 career yards, then the No. 2 mark in NCAA history and still USC’s record, while scoring 49 touchdowns. A 4-year USC letterman (1976-77-78-79) and 2-time unanimous All-American (1978-79), he set 22 NCAA, Pac-10, USC and Rose Bowl records. He captained the 1979 Trojans while leading the nation in rushing. As a senior in 1979, he also won the Walter Camp, Maxwell and Pop Warner Awards.
He was a 3-time All-Conference first teamer (1977-78-79), was USC’s team MVP in 1978 and 1979 and won the 1978 Voit Trophy while finishing fourth in the Heisman voting as a junior.
He was USC’s rushing leader in 1977 (1,478 yards), 1978 (1,859 yards) and 1979 (2,050 yards), as well as the school’s total offense leader in 1978 (1,854 yards), scoring leader in 1978 (86 points) and 1979 (114 points) and kickoff return leader in 1976 (295 yards). He had 31 career 100-yard rushing games, including 10 in 1979.
The 1978 and 1979 Rose Bowl Player of the Game, he is a member of the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. USC went 42-6-1 during his 4-year career, won the 1978 national title and was victorious in 4 bowls (including 3 Rose Bowls). He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. He made the Pac-12 All-Century Team in 2015. He also was a hurdler on USC’s 1979 track team.
A first round pick in the 1980 NFL Draft, White played with the Browns (1980-84) and Rams (1985-88). He led the league in rushing in 1987.
He returned to USC in 1990 as a special assistant to the athletic director. In 1993, he became an assistant football coach in charge of the Trojan running backs (a position he held through 1997). He then held an administrative job at USC.
“He was the toughest player I’ve ever coached,” said John Robinson, White’s former USC and Rams head coach. “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,” said USC athletic director Mike Bohn. “A Rose Bowl legend, a two-time unanimous All-American and a NCAA record setter, he made USC proud donning the Cardinal and Gold. He will always be remembered by the Trojan Family for the history he made on the football field and the legacy he left at Troy. Fight On Forever!”
Memorial service details are pending.