Charles White’s Death Cause Revealed? How Did USC RB Winner Die?

Charles White, the USC Heisman Trophy winner from 1979 who later had a nine-year NFL career, passed away on Wednesday, according to his alma institution. At 64 years old, he was.

Charles White Cause of Death

USC did not offer a cause of death, although the Los Angeles Times reported in July last year that White was battling dementia. White spent four years as a star at USC and then played in the Pro Bowl for the Los Angeles Rams, but his lasting legacy is almost totally tied to Los Angeles. He enjoyed early success with the Trojans, setting a freshman record with 858 rushing yards and leading the Pac-8 with 1,478 rushing yards.

Even more successful seasons came in his junior and senior years. He was the focal point of USC’s 1978 team that won the national championship, and in 1979, after rushing for 2,050 yards and 19 touchdowns, he won the top award in collegiate football.

White graduated as the NCAA’s No. 2 all-time leading rusher and held the Pac-12 record with 6,245 running yards. If you consider his bowl game results, he still ranks fifth on the NCAA leaderboard.

Charles White Cause of Death
Charles White Cause of Death

White was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the 27th overall choice in the 1980 NFL Draft following a tremendously successful college career. He never carried for more than 350 yards in a season throughout his five years with the Browns, which unfortunately meant that more lows than highs would mark his professional career.

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According to the Times, White was already a marijuana and cocaine user before he entered the NFL. Still, injuries and drug use became significant issues while playing for the Browns. When the Browns eventually released him in 1985, he returned to Los Angeles with the Rams under the leadership of John Robinson, his former USC coach.

White’s problems persisted in Los Angeles, reaching a low point in 1987 when, according to the Times, he was discovered drunk and high on cocaine close to the Rams’ training facility and was taken into custody on misdemeanor charges. Robinson, though, remained loyal to his former client, working out an arrangement with the NFL to allow White to continue his career while undergoing regular drug tests.

That trust was rewarded the following year when White set an NFL record by rushing for 1,374 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning him his first and only All-Pro, Pro Bowl, and NFL Comeback Player of the Year awards in the process.

After that, White’s career continued for one more season. Following a positive alcohol test in 1988 that violated his NFL contract and resulted in a four-game suspension, he announced his retirement after losing his starting position the following offseason. After retiring, he continued to work at USC in an administrative position as a running backs coach and a special assistant to the athletic director.

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His ex-wife Judianne White-Basch, their children Nicole, Julian, Tara, Ashton, and Sophia, as well as his granddaughter Giovanna Hemmen, are still alive, according to USC.

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