White was the only player in the NFL in recent years to call all defenses on the field, a task he will assume for the Blitz. Allen doesn't like to make calls from the sideline because he thinks it seriously blunts the effectiveness of his famed 4-3 defense (vs. the 3-4 most other teams now use). White has to know 100 possible defensive audibles, and Allen confesses, "We have to be careful we don't become too smart and try to do too much."
When it's suggested that nobody else wanted White, Allen says, "That doesn't bother me. I wanted Stan." Then, in a rhythmic and practiced litany, he ticks off the names of the old or troublesome or unwanted players who starred for him—Roy Jefferson, Ron McDole, Ken Houston, Billy Kilmer, Pottios, Pardee, on and on. "If it's the right type of old guy," says Allen, "he appreciates it whenever someone still thinks he can contribute."
For a player to have been a union activist is actually an asset on Allen's checklist. At one time at Washington, he thinks he may have had 23 who were or had been player reps. Sitting around the hotel pool in Phoenix in a rare moment of relaxation, Allen says slyly, "It just seems every time I talk about trades, the player reps are the ones available. They can all play football, they have a good attitude, they are dedicated to winning and they have leadership. I think Detroit is going to miss Stan."
Allen himself seems mellower, as if caught up in the new spirit of cooperation. When he invited a writer for lunch the other day, he said with a laugh, "This is a first for me." Indeed, in the NFL it had always been Allen and his Team vs. the World. He even invited the writer to team meetings. "I'm just glad I can change," says Allen. On the practice field he no longer holds a stopwatch to time every punt snap; he doesn't bother clocking the hang time. He implies he has been reborn in the USFL, saying, "It's good to start over and scrape." Yet, in calling this his toughest job ever, Allen insists he can improve his already stellar pro record of 116-47-5, fourth-best in NFL history.
Allen long ago retired the trophy for spending an owner's money, which is a major reason he became persona non grata in the NFL. Diethrich claims he's not concerned. "He's a perfectionist, I'm a perfectionist," the doc says. However, when Allen told Diethrich he planned to bring 110 players to camp in Phoenix, Diethrich said, "Cut that to 85, Coach. Let's do some pre-screening." The largest salary on the Blitz is White's—reportedly $200,000 annually on a three-year contract. With Detroit last year he would have earned $140,000 had there been no strike. White is at last getting what he feels he deserves.
Born in Dover, Ohio but raised in Kent, White is the son of former professional bowler Bill White. (His father passed along those skills; Stan averages 200 on the lanes and twice won the NFL bowling tournament.) When Stan was 10, a kidney disease hospitalized him for nine weeks and kept him at home for six months. "First, the doctors told my parents I was going to die," he says, "then they said I was real lucky, but that I'd never play sports again."
In high school White became the first and only Ohio schoolboy to play in state all-star games in three sports—football, basketball and baseball. His grades were excellent. Colleges from across the land recruited him, including some from the Ivy League, but Woody Hayes lured him to Ohio State. His fellow student and future wife, Patty Welsh (they have two daughters, Amanda, 7, and Meghan, 4) checked student IDs in the campus food line. "It was always good to be friendly with the girl who worked there," says White, "because she could get you an extra dinner." However, he adds with a smile, Patty did not agree to marry him until he was assured of a job in the NFL.
At Ohio State, White was already becoming something of a headache as a football player. Because he wanted White to work harder and live up to his potential, Hayes reminded him continually, "You're not staying the same. You're either getting better or getting worse." White seemed intent on going in the latter direction—he bounced from position to position until, when White was a junior, Defensive Coordinator Lou McCullough tried him at linebacker as a last shot.
McCullough, now athletic director at Iowa State, told Stan that he was too good not to be a starter. "If you ever play yourself down to second team," McCullough warned, "just go on home." Then McCullough set about teaching White how to play linebacker, including emphasis on "how to make a punishing tackle by running right through 'em." White caught on. Subsequently, McCullough gave the linebackers a test of 220 questions, covering not only what they were supposed to do on each play, but what everyone else was supposed to do. White made a place for himself in the lore of Ohio State when he answered all 220 correctly.
Chosen as a 17th-round draft pick in 1972—meaning that 437 college seniors were judged better by the pros—White was so humiliated that he sat in his dormitory closet for an entire day after the draft. But by the beginning of his second year at Baltimore, he was a starter. Seven years later the Colts got precious little for him—an eighth-round draft pick—when they sent him to Detroit, a trade that was made, surprise, the year after he became the Colt player rep. In the meantime he had acquired a law degree by going to school at night, graduating sixth in his class of more than 200.