USC star running back Charles White, 1979 Heisman Trophy winner, dies at 64

LOS ANGELES — Charles White, the legendary USC tailback who won the Heisman Trophy in 1979, died Wednesday. He was 64 years old.

USC announced the death of White, who is still the Trojans career leader with 6,245 yards. The nine-year NFL veteran died of cancer in Newport Beach, Calif., the school said.

“He was the toughest player I ever coached,” said John Robinson, White’s former head coach at USC and with the Los Angeles Rams. “He was really unusual in that regard. He was a great player and 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 tenacity…wow!”

A two-time All-American and Los Angeles native, White won a national title in 1978 before winning the Heisman the following season, when he captained the Trojans and led the nation in rushing yards. White has led the Trojans in rushing in each of his last three seasons. He also won the Walter Camp, Maxwell and Pop Warner awards after his senior season.

He was named Rose Bowl MVP in both games following the 1978 and 1979 seasons. White was the third of USC’s eight Heisman winners, and he is still regarded with respect at the school long known as the Tailback U.

“Charles White was one of the great Trojans of all time,” said USC athletic director Mike Bohn. “A Rose Bowl legend, two-time unanimous All-American and NCAA record holder, he made USC proud to bag the Cardinal and Gold.”

White was the 27th overall pick in the 1980 draft by Cleveland, and he spent five years with the Browns, missing the entire 1983 season due to injury. He joined the Rams in 1985 and played four more seasons under Robinson, finishing his NFL career with 3,075 rushing yards.

After retiring from the NFL, he coached running backs for USC from 1993 to 1997 while again working for Robinson, who had returned to the Trojans. He also held administrative positions in the sports department of Les Troyens.

White is survived by his ex-wife, Judianne White-Basch, their five children and one granddaughter. Details of the memorial service are pending.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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