Posted: Friday April 7, 2006 12:33PM; Updated: Friday April 7, 2006 2:31PM
LenDale White had 26 touchdowns for USC last season.
It was a brutal notion, a concept I understood on one level but quarreled with at its core. Yes, the NFL is a big business, and potential employers have both a right and an obligation to vet a prospective draftee's character. If White, even by appearances, seemed immature or undercommitted, it made sense that this could cost him in what is, by definition, a very limited job market.
On the other hand, brain-cell-degradation notwithstanding, I do remember what it's like to be a 21-year-old college kid -- I knew everything and was bulletproof, for starters -- and I can't help but think that this is all a little absurd. I mean, if you're not creeped out at least a little by the spectacle of older men marveling, with a gleam in their eyes, over the half-naked physiques of guys who may or may not have recently reached the legal drinking age, imploring them to run and jump and squat to their satisfaction, you are a better fan than I.
Perhaps White's refusal to run the 40 was not a direct reaction to his disdain for such a system, but I do know from our very brief conversation on Sunday that we share the following three-word mantra: Film doesn't lie.
In other words, many of us spent numerous Saturdays in the autumns of 2003, '04 and '05 watching White play pivotal downs for an elite team, and though success in college is not always a direct predictor of success in the pros, especially at the running back position (Lawrence Phillips, please report to the courtesy phone behind the Plexiglass shield ... oh, never mind), there is a mountain of visual evidence that suggests White has what it takes. He plays the game like a strong, determined, relentless power back who runs with a chip on his shoulder pads, and that should outweigh the spinning rims and the hamstring twinges, real or imagined.
When I asked USC coach Pete Carroll, who was busy schmoozing with former NFL colleagues while undoubtedly impressing the legions of high school juniors in attendance (such was the brilliance of staging pro day on a prime recruiting weekend), for his thoughts on White, the first word he used was "intelligent." I'm going to assume, then, that White couldn't possibly do something as dumb as to sabotage his draft status intentionally -- nor could Parker, a highly respected agent, be the driving force behind such a strategy.
My conclusion, then, or perhaps what I simply prefer to believe: White has made a couple of bad decisions on his road to inevitable NFL prosperity, including the dubious choice to skip a meal at a restaurant that's been satisfying diners since 1917. (Presumably, Babe Didrikson could have blown off a hungry track-and-field writer at the same spot during the 1932 Olympics.) When, nearly 3½ hours later, White's agent's assistant called to say he'd missed the meal because he was at a doctor's appointment, getting his hamstring examined, well, I was like Fox Mulder; I want to believe.
We rescheduled for Monday, April 10, and assuming I don't get stiffed again, I'll channel another L.A. sports legend, former Lakers announcer Chick Hearn,and call it "no harm, no foul." After all, it's not like I can claim last Monday didn't work out for me, seeing as how 35 minutes after leaving downtown I was chowing an avocado burrito at Campo's on Pico and 20th in Santa Monica, which is pretty much the equivalent of being transported to heaven on a magic carpet with harps playing in the background.
Whether or not things will work out for LenDale White -- and whether or not he ultimately works out for NFL scouts to their satisfaction -- well, that's out of my hands.