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Charles White, former USC great and Heisman winner, dies at 64

Charles White
Long Photography-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when Charles White was the toast of Southern California and the broader college football world.

Considered an all-time great during his time with the USC Trojans, White earned the Heisman Trophy with the program following the 1979 season. USC announced Wednesday that White died at the age of 64 in Newport Beach, Calif. The cause of death was cancer.

“Charles White was one of the all-time great Trojans. 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!”

USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn on the death of Charles White

It’s not yet known what type of cancer White had before passing and how long he was battling it.

White starred for the John Robinson-led Trojans from 1976-1979. This span saw USC post a combined 42-6-1 record with the running back joining the likes of Ricky Bell, Dwight Ford, Lynn Cain and Marcus Allen leading dominant backfields.

“He was the toughest player I’ve ever coached,” John Robinson said following Charles White’s passing. “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!”

After finishing fourth in the Heisman voting in 1978, White would go on to win the award over the likes of Billy Sims and USC teammate Paul McDonald the following year. That season saw the Los Angeles native record north of 2,000 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.

usc legend charles white
Long Photography-USA TODAY Sports
  • Charles White college stats: 6,245 rushing yards, 5.4 average, 53 total TDs

White remains the Trojans all-time leading rusher. It’s considered an amazing accomplishment given the running backs who have suited up for the program.

This performance enabled White to be selected by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 1980 NFL Draft. He played eight seasons in the NFL, finishing his career playing for the aforementioned Mr. Robinson with the Los Angeles Rams. White led the NFL in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns in 1987.

White is survived by his ex-wife, Judianne White-Basch, their five children and a granddaughter.