I was reflecting on last season and Reggie Bush’s injury. I started thinking about Alma Mater, the academic spirit of team and the transition from college superstar to the NFL. Its funny how no matter how great a college player is, you never know how that talent is going to translate to the NFL. Such is the case with LenDale White.
Put yourself back into the 2004-2006 USC Trojan National Championship run. USC was all but unstoppable. Matt Lienart at QB, Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett receiving, a backfield made up of Reggie Bush and LenDale White, Lofa Tatupu leading the defense and a very capable Pete Carroll orchestrating the whole offensive.
The team was named team of the decade by ESPN until they ran into a Texas Longhorn team lead by Vince Young, but that is another story. Let’s continue.
Leinart and Bush were both nominated for the Heisman Trophy in their respective time at USC, which both won in their Junior years, and the team went on to dominate the BCS, minus that whole Texas/ Rose Bowl thing. So, diplomas are handed out and we are ready for a bang up NFL draft.
Reggie Bush is the first Trojan picked in the 2006 Draft, at number two in the first round by the New Orleans Saints. Matt Leinart isn’t far behind picked number ten in the first round by the Arizona Cardinals.
In the second round LenDale White was the 45th overall pick.
Fast forward to NFL 2008, Matt Leinart is sitting on a bench in the desert of Arizona playing back-up to an aging bag boy. He had a brief, dismal run as a starter for the Cardinals and now catches warm ups for Warner. The stunning USC superstar who threw for 99 touchdowns and10,693 yards now has 3209 yards, 13 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and 8 fumbles as a pro.
Next is Reggie Bush. In Bush’s career at USC he had 433 rushes/ catches for 3,169 yards, 25 touchdowns and a mind blowing 0 fumbles! Zero! In the NFL Bush has 602 rushes/catches for 2965 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 fumbles! Decent so far but not the stellar performance we saw at USC.
This brings me to LenDale White, the tailback that was always in the shadow of Bush and Leinart. He was the quiet workhorse that rounded out the Trojan’s championship backfield. No Heisman Trophy, 43 picks behind his teammate Bush in the draft, and a less mentioned name by barroom quarterbacks everywhere.
Yet, on the same week that his old teammate Reggie Bush went down with an injury, White rushed for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns including breaking an 80 yard TD run. On a whole, White had rushed for 1668 yards and 15 touchdowns in his short tenure in the NFL. Not to mention that his Tennessee Titans were the only undefeated team in the league that week sitting at 6-0. Not bad for a second round, # 45 pick.
The phrase “Any given Sunday” usually applies to any team can win in the NFL at any giving time. In this case I think it applies to players too. A gambling man would’ve bet on huge things from Leinart and Bush while LenDale White sat in the background of the NFL. That is not the case though. Leinart is on the bench, Bush was injured and LenDale White is giving us the performance of his life. I love the NFL.