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1979 Heisman winner Charles White
AP Photo/Fong

Three For The Roses

1979 Heisman winner Charles White

Charles White won the Heisman Trophy for the work he did between the 1979 and '80 Rose Bowls. But it was his performances in Pasadena that were arguably the most memorable of his USC career. As a junior, White and the Trojans played Michigan for the roses. In the second quarter, White vaulted up and over the top of the line for what was called a touchdown. Replays, photographs and plenty of naked eyeballs saw the ball get knocked out of White's hands as he launched himself into the air. The ball was recovered at the 1-yard line by the Wolverines but the call stood, and USC won the game 17-10. "There was no way I got that ball into the end zone," White told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer years later. "But what was I supposed to do? Say to the ref, 'Excuse me, you made a mistake?'" There was no mistaking White's brilliance a year later in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. Trailing 16-10, the Heisman winner lugged the Trojans downfield almost single-handedly for the winning touchdown. He gained 70 of the 83 yards USC traveled on the clinching drive, capping it with a 1-yard run with 90 seconds left. For the game, White carried the ball 39 times for 247 yards. With the flu. It ended a string of extraordinary efforts in a USC uniform for a back of modest size (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) and speed (4.6-second 40-yard dash). He routinely carried 40 or more times while leading the nation in rushing his senior season. For his ability to withstand a weekly pounding and to perform above and beyond his physical gifts, USC coach John Robinson labeled White "the most competitive athlete I've ever seen."
-- Pat Forde


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