Charles White
No. 25, 33
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born:(1958-01-22)January 22, 1958
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died:January 11, 2023(2023-01-11) (aged 64)
Newport Beach, California, U.S.
Height:5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight:190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school:San Fernando
(San Fernando, California)
College:USC (1976–1979)
NFL draft:1980 / Round: 1 / Pick: 27
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
  • USC (1993–1997)
    Running backs coach
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards:3,075
Rushing average:3.9
Rushing touchdowns:23
Receiving yards:860
Receiving touchdowns:1
Player stats at · PFR

Charles Raymond White (January 22, 1958 – January 11, 2023) was an American football running back who played in the National Football League (NFL) for nine seasons from 1980 to 1988. He played college football for the USC Trojans, where he was a twice unanimous All-American and the winner of the Heisman Trophy. He was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the first round (27th overall) of the 1980 NFL Draft.[1] He also played for the Los Angeles Rams.

Early life

Born in Los Angeles, California, White graduated from San Fernando High School in San Fernando, where as a track and field athlete he won the 330-yard (302 m) low hurdles at the CIF California State Meet over future Olympic Gold medalist Andre Phillips.[2] He was also a standout high school football player.

College career

White attended the University of Southern California, where he played for the USC Trojans football team. In 1978, White won the W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy as the outstanding college football player on the Pacific Coast. In 1979, he received the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and was named UPI Player of the Year. He is the second player in Rose Bowl history (of four, total) to have been honored as Player of the Game twice (1979 and 1980).[citation needed]

College statistics

Led the Pac-8/Pac-10
Pac-8/Pac-10 record
Led the NCAA
NCAA Record
Bold Career high
College rushing & receiving statistics* [3]
Season Team GP Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
Team Rushing Receiving
1976 USC 12 156 858 5.5 10 6 65 10.8 1
1977 USC 12 285 1,478 5.2 7 9 138 15.3 2
1978 USC 13 374 1,859 5.0 13 22 193 8.8 1
1979 USC 12 332 2,050 6.2 19 22 145 6.6 0
Career 49 1,147 6,245 5.4 49 59 541 9.2 4

* Includes bowl games.

Professional career

White was the 27th overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft, selected in the first round by the Cleveland Browns. After four disappointing seasons in Cleveland, where he rushed for a total of 942 yards and had a 3.4 yards per carry average, White was released before the start of the 1985 season. White later acknowledged that he struggled with cocaine addiction during this period.[4]

After his release from the Browns in 1985, he reunited with his college coach, John Robinson, who was then coaching the Los Angeles Rams. White played for the Rams for four seasons, 1985 to 1988. In 1987, he rushed for a league-leading 1,387 yards and 11 touchdowns, which earned him a Pro Bowl selection and the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

White finished his NFL career with 3,075 rushing yards, and 23 rushing touchdowns, along with 114 receptions, 860 yards, and one receiving touchdown.

Post-playing career

In 1993, White joined USC as running backs coach; he later worked as a computer consultant.[5]

In its third and fourth seasons, American Gladiators held special "Pro Football Challenge of Champions" shows. White participated in and won both, each time coming from behind in the "Eliminator" thanks to slip-ups by his opponents.[6] He also competed in sixth season's USC vs. Notre Dame alumni special where he also won, giving him a 3-0 record on the show.

Personal life and drug use

During his years at USC, White struggled with cocaine and marijuana use. In a 1987 Sports Illustrated article, he admitted to smoking marijuana daily at USC and snorted his first line of cocaine a few weeks before the 1977 Rose Bowl. He met fellow USC student Judi McGovern and the two dated throughout their time at USC, eventually marrying and having a daughter. However, White continued his cocaine use through college and on into his early NFL career with the Browns. White checked into drug rehab in 1982 and was clean for three years. Even so, the Browns cut him in 1985 and he was picked up on waivers by the Los Angeles Rams, where he was reunited with John Robinson, his former college coach at USC.

White soon had a short relapse into cocaine, but got clean again until one night in August 1987, where he and a friend did lines until White was arrested. However, Robinson bailed him out of jail and agreed to keep him on the team if he stayed clean. White responded with the best season of his career in the strike-affected 1987 season, running for 339 yards in the three "scab games" after the Rams traded Eric Dickerson —- and then running for 100 yards in five straight games afterwards.[7]

White and McGovern eventually divorced. White sold his 1979 Heisman Trophy in 2000 to settle tax debts. White had five children, three daughters and two sons.[8]

A Los Angeles Times article on July 17, 2022, by Bill Plaschke describes White's struggles with dementia and how he was living in an Orange County, California assisted living facility as of 2022. White could still recall his football days, but had issues with day-to-day functioning; the signs were that his dementia was caused by his career playing football.[9]

White died of liver cancer on January 11, 2023, at the age of 64.[10] He is one of at least 345 NFL players to be diagnosed after death with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE),[11] which is caused by repeated hits to the head.[12][13]

See also


  1. ^ "Charles White". Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  2. ^ "California State Meet Results - 1915 to present". Hank Lawson. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2012-12-25.
  3. ^ "Charles White college statistics". College Football at Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  4. ^ "Catching Up With Charles White". CNN. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  5. ^ "Charles White". Premiere Athlete & Celebrity. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  6. ^ "American Gladiators". Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  7. ^ "A Visit to Hell".
  8. ^ "Archives". Los Angeles Times. 17 November 2008.
  9. ^ "Why has USC forgotten Charles White? Haunted Heisman winner hopes relationship heals". Los Angeles Times. 17 July 2022.
  10. ^ Beacham, Greg (January 11, 2023). "Charles White, USC's Heisman-winning tailback, dies at 64". AP News. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  11. ^ Kent Babb (Dec 8, 2023). "They watched their husbands win the Heisman – then lost them to CTE. For years, Heisman weekend was a chance to remember their husband's glory. Now it's a reminder of a sport's violent toll". Washington Post. Retrieved Dec 9, 2023.
  12. ^ "The driving force behind Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)". Concussion Legacy Foundation. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  13. ^ Ken Belson and Benjamin Mueller (June 20, 2023). "Collective Force of Head Hits, Not Just the Number of Them, Increases Odds of C.T.E. The largest study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy to date found that the cumulative force of head hits absorbed by players in their careers is the best predictor of future brain disease". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2023.