Charles White, the legendary running back and 1979 Heisman Trophy winner, died Wednesday, the University of Southern California announced. He was 64 years old.
White, a running back who still holds the Trojans’ record for 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 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 way. He was a great player and he loved to play. Those are the things I remember the most. He was a really tough guy and an extremely talented 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 an NCAA record holder, he did USC proud by donning the cardinal and gold.”
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A Los Angeles native, White was a two-time All-American, winning a national title in 1978 and claiming the Heisman the following season. In 1979, he, too, captained the Trojans and led the nation in rushing. White also won Walter Camp, Maxwell and Pop Warner Awards after his final season.
White won the Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player Award in the 1978 and 1979 seasons and was USC’s third of a record eight Heisman winners. The school is often referred to as Tailback U.
Cleveland selected White with the 27th pick in the 1980 draft. He played on the team for five years, though he missed the entire 1983 season with injury.
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In 1985, he joined the Rams and played four more seasons with Robinson.
White finished his NFL career with 3,075 rushing yards.
After retiring from the NFL, he coached USC running backs from 1993-1997, again under Robinson, who had returned to the Trojans.
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White is survived by his ex-wife, Judianne White-Basch, their five children and one granddaughter.
Associated Press contributed to this report.