Because Some Of You All Forgot How Great LenDale White Was

Ever since I was a child and my mother would take me into the Husky section when shopping for pants at our local K-Mart, Sears or anywhere else you could find low-priced clothing options for rapidly growing children, I would always look out for my fellow brethren who were shamed by shopping in this section. Now as a grown man, this is no big deal at all, but at the time … oh buddy, I HATED shopping there. I'd rather do chores like mow the lawn, scrub the floor, clean the bathroom and pull weeds than have to make those trips, but my mother threatened to whoop my ass made me face my fears and go through the process.

So as I grew older, I always seemed to be rooting for athletes who probably had to shop in the Husky section as children. (Side note: I will probably come up with an All-Husky team, honoring all the athletic fat men out there.) From Khalid El-Amin and Big Baby Davis in basketball, to John Kruk and Cecil Fielder in baseball, to Jerome Bettis and Alge Crumpler in football … I was here for the husky guys.

So it came to pass that in 2004 I was introduced to USC's new feature back named LenDale White.

Quick feet. A smooth stride. That black visor. THAT STIFF ARM. A nimbleness that I could appreciate. Good God did that #21 jersey stretch oh so much when this 250-plus-pound tailback was moving. Like it was gasping for air. LenDale White was a thing of beauty to watch play football. No Cam'ron or Roy Hibbert quips necessary. While the world would quickly become enamored with the speed freak with stop-on-a-dime quickness that was Reggie Bush, my eyes always fixated on White.

You see, for every outside sweep that Reggie would take for long wind sprints up the sideline, LenDale would hop-step, cut and break through the trenches for an 11-yard gain. For every long pass that Reggie would haul in down the field, LenDale would flare out after pass-protecting for Matt Leinart and pop open in the flat, make an oncoming defender miss and scamper for a huge first down. For every signature flip from Reggie to score in the end zone, there was a high-stepping stride and handing that touchdown football to Snoop Dogg by LenDale. It was Thunder and Lightning, Yin and Yang, and Sonny and Cher all in one. Okay, maybe not the last one. Okay, totally that last one.

So yes, LenDale did his thing at USC.  It was LenDale who led the team in rushing in his first two seasons and was a 2005 All-America selection. It was LenDale who rushed for three touchdowns in that 55-19 drubbing over my Oklahoma Sooners in the 2004 BCS National Championship. (I'll admit that I even said aloud, "Well, at least it was LenDale who scored," after a touchdown.) It was LenDale again who rushed for three more touchdowns in USC's 41-38 loss to Texas (versus Reggie who tried that absurd lateral to the fullback) in the 2005 BCS Championship Game. It was LenDale who led the nation with 24 rushing touchdowns in 2005, although it was Reggie who won the Heisman Trophy, which really belonged to Vince Young anyway, and then Reggie had to forfeit the Heisman Trophy due to "improper benefits." It was LenDale who set the USC career rushing touchdowns record of 52, more than O.J. Simpson, more than Marcus Allen, more than Reggie Bush.

This isn't a campaign to pit LenDale vs. Reggie, because both have been loyal friends with each other to the very end. It was their bond as brothers to both wear #25 (putting LenDale's #21 and Reggie's #5 together) when coming into the league as rookies. However, the reality is this: One won the Heisman and the #2 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, and the other was hopeful that his legacy would be remembered at USC and showed up for draft workouts looking like a kid who shops for pants in the husky section.

LenDale tore his Achilles tendon in 2010 and was cut from the Denver Broncos the following year. I'm not sure what LenDale's doing now, but I hope he feels good about his career. He was one of his generation's best backs, a treat to watch play football, and proved to the world once again that you should never judge a book by its cover, even if it is ginormous with a huge black visor covering its face.

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