'I’ve always been a team player': Michigan State's Lorenzo White to enter college football's Hall

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Lorenzo White starred at Michigan State from 1984-87.

Lorenzo White, Michigan State's all-time leading rusher and a two-time All-American, has been selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

The former Spartan, who was part of a Rose Bowl winning team after the 1987 season, is one of 13 players and two coaches that were announced Monday as part of the 2019 class by the National Football Foundation.

"I was very, very happy when I received the news,” White said. "A lot of people expected it, but then you just never know. When I found out, I was like, ‘Oh my God, it happened,’ so it was very exciting."

White is the most accomplished running back in Michigan State history, ranking first in rushing yards (4,887), rushing attempts (1,082), rushing touchdowns (43) and 100-yard games (23).

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The two-time first-team All-American and All-Big Ten selection (1985, 1987) finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in both of those seasons. His 4,887 rushing yards for coach George Perles ranked second in Big Ten history following his departure from East Lansing and still rank eighth all-time in league history. He was named the No. 1 running back in the Big Ten in the 1980s by the Big Ten Network and led the Spartans in rushing four consecutive seasons (1984-87).

White is joined in the 2019 class by Texas quarterback Vince Young, Notre Dame wide receiver Raghib Ismail , Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, Oklahoma defensive back Rickey Dixon, John Carroll linebacker London Fletcher, Texas A&M defensive lineman Jacob Green, North Carolina State receiver Torry Holt, Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer, USC defensive back Troy Polamalu, Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas and Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis.

Dennis Erickson, who coached Miami to two national championships, and Joe Taylor, who won 233 games at historically black colleges, were selected for induction as coaches.

As a sophomore in 1985, White rushed for a school record and then-Big Ten record 2,066 yards. His 1,908 yards during the regular season at the time was the fourth-best single-season rushing total in the history of college football and the highest by a sophomore. He rushed for 200 or more yards on four occasions, including a 286-yard effort against Indiana, and his 11 100-yard games in 1985 are still a school record.

White was named the UPI Big Ten Co-MVP and also the college running back of the year by the Touchdown Club of Columbus and the Washington, D.C. Touchdown Club. He also earned MSU’s George Alderton Award for male athlete of the year and the team’s Governor’s Award for Most Valuable Player.

During the 1987 season, White helped MSU to its first Rose Bowl since 1966 by rushing for 1,572 yards, second in school history at the time and still fourth in the Spartan record book. His 132.6 rushing yards per game during the regular season ranked No. 6 nationally. In the Rose Bowl win over USC, White ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns. White earned his second Big Ten MVP award from UPI in 1987 and was also named the Chicago Tribune Silver Football winner, which is given annually to the best player in the Big Ten.

“I didn’t get a chance to win my ultimate goal of the Heisman Trophy, but this honor is what it’s all about," White said. "I’ve always been a team player. I couldn’t have done this without everyone that blocked for me and everybody that played defense so we could get the ball, and I say that on defense because they were just as excited to get the ball for me so I could have a chance to accomplish these records. 

“I can’t just thank one person. That team part is really important to me. You have the offensive line, the tight ends, the quarterbacks, the receivers, they all had a hand in throwing a block somewhere. But I definitely have to thank Coach Perles because of the way he handled me and getting it all kicked off and started.”

White becomes the 10th former Michigan State player to be selected for the College Football Hall of Fame, joining halfback John Pingel (inducted in 1968), tackle Don Coleman (1975), linebacker George Webster (1987), defensive end Bubba Smith (1988), safety Brad Van Pelt (2001), wide receiver Gene Washington (2011), linebacker Percy Snow (2013), running back Clinton Jones (2015) and wide receiver Kirk Gibson (2017). Former Spartan head coaches Clarence “Biggie” Munn (1959), Charles Bachman (1978), Duffy Daugherty (1984) and Frank “Muddy” Waters (2000) are also members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

As MSU's latest inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, White's name will be added to Spartan Stadium's "Ring of Fame" this upcoming 2019 season.

Young was the first FBS player to pass for more than 3,000 yards and run for more than 1,000, leading Texas to an undefeated season in 2005. Against USC in the Rose Bowl, Young passed for 267 yards, ran for 200 and scrambled for a game-winning touchdown on fourth down with 19 seconds left in a 41-38 victory.

Ismail was part of Notre Dame’s 1988 national championship team and had six return touchdowns in his career, including five on kickoffs. He is best remembered for taking two kicks back for touchdowns against Michigan in 1989.

McFadden was a two-time Heisman runner-up, coming in second behind Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006 and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in 2007.

The Goodyear Blimp was also named an honorary member of the College Football Hall of Fame.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau;

Associated Press contributed