Charles white, Heisman Trophy Winner, broke for daylight, fending off murderers with a metal trash can lid, sprinting down the sidewalk in a black leather jacket. It was 100° in Brea, Calif., 10 minutes after noon, Aug. 21, 1987, and he was tripped out of his mind.
The Los Angeles Rams were flying to San Diego that afternoon for an exhibition game, but White was going to miss the flight. You talk about in the grasp? White had spent the last nine hours—from 3 a.m. to noon—smoking cocaine through a pipe in an unlit, abandoned warehouse. And though he and his friend were alone, White now felt that many were trying to kill him. Suddenly he jumped up and burst out of the warehouse door. He grabbed the lid and held it in front of him like a warrior. Tommy Trojan meets Charlie Crack.
White high-stepped it down Lambert Street, swiveling his neck to see who would charge him next. Seeking refuge, he ran inside the American Quality Dry Cleaners and began screaming, "Somebody's after me! Somebody's trying to kill me!"
Day manager Barbara Hughes and her counter assistant backed slowly to the wall. After about 30 seconds, White decided they were after him too, so he bolted out the door and jogged to a vacant lot near the corner of Lambert and Brea. He began circling in a half step, first forward, then backpedaling, rambling on about people trying to get him, holding his shield in front of him as he went. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two police cars. He whirled the other way and saw three more. Five officers emerged, guns drawn.
"Don't hurt me!" he screamed. "Don't kill me!"
They closed in on him in an ever-decreasing circle until they could make a grab for him. White, a running back, broke a few tackles before the cops finally laid him out on the gravel face down, spread-eagled. White fought so hard that both his wrists were permanently scarred by the handcuffs.
Four and a half months later, he was in the Pro Bowl.
Charles White, Heisman Trophy winner, broke for daylight, fending off dream-killers with a stiff left arm. It was two days after Christmas 1987, and this last run against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick gave him 1,374 yards for the season and the NFL rushing title.
Can you imagine it? The NFL rushing title? To the guy who had sat on the pine behind the greatest runner in the game, Eric Dickerson? The same Dickerson who had never missed a game because of an injury in his pro career? To the guy who had spent five years in Cleveland playing musical chairs between the bench and drug rehabs? The same guy who had cleared waivers? It had taken White six seasons to get only four more yards than he got last season alone.
White got his break in '87 when Dickerson vamoosed to Indianapolis on Halloween eve. Talk about scary. The Rams were 1-5 with Dickerson. What would they be with White?