Wilford "Whizzer" White making a catch in traffic (Photo: ASU)
All legacies begin somewhere. For Sun Devil football, few family names if any carry greater resonance than White.
Most fans these days will immediately associate that with Danny, the record-setting quarterback who passed ASU to three straight Fiesta Bowl wins. But the foundation for the White impact was laid in resoundingly successful fashion a quarter century earlier when Danny's father become the first breakout star in program history.
A homegrown talent from Mesa, Wilford White, nicknamed "Whizzer" came to Tempe in 1947 for the newly rechristened Sun Devils and in that first season, he saw spot duty on offense, rushing for 197 yards. He flashed signs of his game-breaking ability, accumulating 126 punt return yards against New Mexico, highlighted by an 82-yard touchdown, and also returning an interception 77 yards for a score in that same game.
As a sophomore, the dynamic White began to make a major impact. He led team with 539 yards rushing and 324 receiving. An interesting footnote on his 1948 season is that he set a non-quarterback school record by losing 227 yards on his rushing attempts, but he still averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Once again tormenting New Mexico, he racked up 306 all-purpose yards.
These being the days of two and three-way players, White did more than just play running back. He led the team with 95 points in that season, scoring 11 total touchdowns, and kicking three field goals and converting 20 extra points. He set a school record (now second) with 395 yards on punt returns, and his 21.9 yards per return that year are still the best ever by a Sun Devil. He was also lethal on kickoff returns, taking one 100 yards for a score against Pepperdine.
For good measure, he also led the team with three interceptions. Such all-around excellence earned White a spot on the All-Border Conference team.
(OK, after that let's catch our breath...)
In 1949, he once again led the team in a number of categories, including rushing (935 yards), receptions (17), receiving yards (334), scoring (66 points on 11 touchdowns). Over the last four games of the 1949 season, he began a run of consecutive 100-yard games that he would take to seven with the first three games in 1950, a mark that is still the school record.
Such heroics were nothing compared to what he did in 1950.
On offense, he ran for 1,502 yards, a mark only surpassed by Woody Green's (1,565 in 1972) and averaged 7.6 yards per carry. He ran for 17 touchdowns and topped 100 yards eight times that season, three of those exceeding 200 yards. His totals against BYU (236) and NAU (232) are the the fourth and fifth highest single-game totals in school history.
He would set the single-season school record for all-purpose yards with 2,065 (1,502 rushing, 225 receiving, 64 on punt returns, 274 on kickoff returns), and no Sun Devil has ever found the end zone more than White did in 1950, with 22 (including five against Idaho). For good measure, his 136 points scored that year are also tops in ASU's record books.
Shockingly, such jaw-dropping production only earned him a second-team All-American spot. Outrageous.
White was a third round pick of the Chicago Bears, and played two seasons of undistinguished professional football before suffering a knee injury.
Still hungry for more amazing statistical facts not yet mentioned? To this day, White ranks fourth in career rushing yards (3,173), third in 100-yard games (16), first in all-purpose yards with 5,654 (3,173 rushing, 892 receiving, 798 on punt returns, 791 on kickoff returns), second in interceptions returned for touchdowns (three), tied with Green for most career touchdowns (48), third in career points (327) and first in career punt return average (17.7).
Oh, and one other mark of note. One All-American quarterback son. Not much more to say about White than "Simply incredible."
He was among the inaugural class of Sun Devil Hall of Fame inductees in 1975.
See the previous entries on House of Sparky's 100 day countdown here