EAST LANSING, Mich. – Lorenzo White, Michigan State’s all-time leading rusher and a two-time first-team All-American, has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
The 2019 class, which features 13 players and two coaches, was announced Monday morning by the National Football Foundation and also live on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
White is the most accomplished running back in the rich history of Michigan State football, ranking first in the school record books in rushing yards (4,887), rushing attempts (1,082), rushing touchdowns (43) and 100-yard games (23).
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 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).
“I was very, very happy when I received the news,” said White. “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.
“I didn’t get a chance to win my ultimate goal of the Heisman Trophy, but this honor is what it’s all about. 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 (George) Perles because of the way he handled me and getting it all kicked off and started.”
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.
“When you came in, you always wanted the ultimate,” remarked White, who also won the Governor’s Award as a senior. “You wanted to win your conference, win the national championship, and go to the Rose Bowl, which is ‘The Granddaddy of Them All.’ They always talked about the Rose Bowl when I was younger, and for us to put together a season that we had my senior year and to go finish it off in Pasadena with the win was incredible.”
Along the way to the Rose Bowl, White rushed for 100-plus yards seven times in 1987. His most remarkable performance fittingly came in his last home game at Spartan Stadium with the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth on the line against No. 16 Indiana. He established a school record for attempts in a game with 56 against Indiana – one shy of the NCAA record – while finishing with a career-high 292 yards on the ground, which is the second-highest total by a Spartan. His dominating showing led MSU to a 27-3 victory over the Hoosiers to clinch the Big Ten Championship.
White is perhaps known most for his endurance he displayed throughout his career. He carried the ball 1,082 times while wearing the Green and White, which set a Big Ten record at the time and is still third most in conference history. His 419 attempts in 1985 still stands as the most in a Big Ten single-season.
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.
White will be officially inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame’s 62nd Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 10 at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. The inductees will also be recognized at their respective collegiate institutions with NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salutes, presented by Fidelity Investments, during the fall. Their accomplishments will be forever immortalized at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
In addition to White, the star-studded 2019 Class also features former players Terrell Buckley (DB, Florida State, 1989-91), Rickey Dixon (DB, Oklahoma, 1984-87), London Fletcher (LB, John Carroll, 1995-97), Jacob Green (DL, Texas A&M, 1977-79), Torry Holt (WR, North Carolina State, 1995-98), Raghib Ismail (KR/WR, Notre Dame, 1988-90), Darren McFadden (RB, Arkansas, 2005-07), Jake Plummer (QB, Arizona State, 1993-96), Troy Polamalu (DB, USC, 1999-2002), Joe Thomas (OL, Wisconsin, 2003-06), Patrick Willis (LB, Mississippi, 2003-06) and Vince Young (QB, Texas, 2003-05), and coaches Dennis Erickson and Joe Taylor.
“We are extremely proud to announce the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class,” said Archie Manning, NFF Chairman and a 1989 College Football Hall of Famer from Mississippi. “Each of these men has established himself among the absolute best to have ever played or coached the game, and we look forward to immortalizing their incredible accomplishments. The Class will be part of a momentous year as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football this season.”
This year’s inductees were selected from the national ballot of 76 All-America players and six elite coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision and the 100 players and 32 coaches from the divisional ranks.
To be eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame ballot, players must have been named first-team All-American by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for its consensus All-America teams; played their last year of intercollegiate football at least 10 years prior; played within the last 50 years and cannot be currently playing professional football. Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach; won at least 60 percent of their games; and be retired from coaching for at least three years. If a coach is retired and over the age of 70, there is no waiting period. If he is over the age of 75, he is eligible as an active coach. In both cases, the candidate’s post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed.
Once nominated for consideration, all player candidates are submitted to one of eight District Screening Committees, depending on their school’s geographic location, which conducts a vote to determine who will appear on the ballot and represent their respective districts. Each year, approximately 15 candidates, who are not selected for the Hall of Fame, will be named automatic holdovers and will bypass the district screening process and automatically appear on the ballot the following year. Additionally, the Veterans Committee may make recommendations to the Honors Court for exceptions that allow for the induction of players who played more than 50 years ago.
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