Ex-Michigan State star Lorenzo White 'ecstatic' over finally making College Football HOF

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Chicago — You’d have a hard time believing it watching Lorenzo White smile from ear to ear and unleash a hearty belly laugh, but he’s still a little bitter.

OK, maybe bitter is too harsh. Let’s say the former Michigan State running back is bummed he never achieved his ultimate goal as a player — winning the Heisman Trophy.

Former Michigan State star Lorenzo White (with ball) is still the program leader in career rushing yards (4,887), rushing attempts (1,082) and rushing touchdowns (43).

But any of that disappointment that still lingered from fourth-place finishes in the voting in both 1985 — when White led the nation with 2,066 yards rushing as a sophomore – and 1987 has almost completely been washed away with what White says was all he had left to accomplish — induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

“It means you can put everything else to bed,” White said last week after he was honored at the Big Ten’s annual media days. “I set my goals high as far as like when I came in (to Michigan State). I wanted to win the Heisman Trophy. On paper I did everything that you could possibly do. Did I win the award? No. But this will be a good gesture to finish up my college history.”

White got the news back in January, ending a long wait that seemed almost as difficult to comprehend as not winning the Heisman. White was on the ballot nine times before he came home early one day to see that “mystery box” at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home.

That box, of course, included a glass football and the news many had been wondering what took so long: White was going to be inducted into the 2019 class.

“When I picked up (the box) and opened it, it had confetti all over the ball, so I really couldn’t see,” White explained. “So when I took the confetti out and pulled the ball out it said, ‘New inductee, 2019,’ I’m like, ‘Wow.’ I was still kind of leery until I pulled the paper out and I said, ‘OK, I’m official.’

“Even though I saw the ball I had to make sure what it was. I read the paper and it confirmed it.”

Another burst of laughter came from White. The same happy-go-lucky attitude that followed him from Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale to East Lansing as a college freshman in 1984 is still shining through today. It has allowed him not to be bothered too much about getting passed over the previous eight times on the ballot, even as he saw his contemporaries enter the Hall.

“Yeah, it took nine years on the ballot,” White said. “Everybody kept saying, ‘It’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen.’ When it did I was just elated, ecstatic about that. That was like the last thing in college football that I could have.”

 Once again, the laughing and smiling followed.

There is no anger from White, not after the career he had at Michigan State. He’s still the leader in career rushing yards (4,887), rushing attempts (1,082) and rushing touchdowns (43).

“I’m proud of that,” he said.

White is content with his days as a Spartan, even his junior year in 1986 when he entered the season as the Heisman favorite only to be limited by injury.

“I’m kind of pissed off at that year,’ White said. “The leading candidate going in for the Heisman Trophy after leading the nation in rushing and come back and get hurt. But I got over it, came back my senior year and finished with 1,500 yards.”

White parlayed his college days into an eight-year NFL career. He was thrust into a different role in Houston, assimilating to the run-and-shoot offense after carrying the ball roughly 40 times a game with the Spartans. But he made it work, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1992 after rushing for 1,226 yards and seven touchdowns.

White will be officially inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame Dec. 10 in New York. That will come after the two-time All-American has his name added to the Ring of Fame at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 28 when Michigan State takes on Indiana.

White said he’s inviting all of his former teammates to join him for that weekend, including former coach George Perles.

“This was not just for me, but for Michigan State,” White said. “I represent the green and white.

“That was the last thing, going in the Hall of Fame and all that is part of it. Being able to not just have records at the school but to put a brick into that program, the finishing touch is to see your name.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau