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Without White, the Cowboys gave up 278 yards passing to Green Bay in a preseason game. With him, seven weeks later, they held the Packers to a net 82 and were credited with six sacks, two by White, for minus 39 yards. Almost every running play that worked for Green Bay that day went to the side of the field away from White. White's play late in the game was typical of his contribution. White stuffs a run at the line of scrimmage, no gain. White occupies both the guard and the tackle and leaves an alley open for a blitzer to sack quarterback Steve Wright—minus three yards. Wright rolls away from White's side to pass, but White beats two blockers and chases Wright, who makes a hurried throw that flutters to the ground incomplete. Green Bay punts. "Where the hell did White come from?" asked a Packer assistant coach.
As good an answer as any is this: from lifelong immersion in athletics. A three-sport star at Thomas McKean High, White was consumed by athletics. He was good enough at baseball—hitting .500 his junior and senior seasons—to have scouts Jocko Collins of the Orioles and Peanuts Lowrey of the Phillies come around for a look, and by then he was already demonstrating the competitiveness that is his bright, particular trademark.
"Randy was playing first base," says his baseball coach at McKean, Earl Batten, "and this kid on the other team got on. The kid had a big mouth, and he took a long lead, taunting us. Our pitcher kept throwing the ball over there, and every time the kid got up from beating the throw he told Randy we were wasting our time. About the sixth throw, Randy kind of backhanded him in the face with his glove, knocked him off the bag and tagged him out."
White never picked up a baseball again after high school. His father had other plans. Guy, a butcher, had played three years of football at West Chester (Pa.) State. He wanted his son to go to college, and he wanted his son to play football. "He made the decision," says Randy, "but it really wasn't a big deal. From the time I was nine, that's all I wanted to do anyway. But the truth is, I didn't have much of a choice as to where I would go. Our high school team won five games in two years. I didn't even make first team all-state. In Delaware. [He made second team, as fullback and linebacker.] Only three colleges were interested. I went out and had a look at Arizona State. Maryland was closer." Virginia Tech really wasn't in the running.
It's an hour and a half up I-95 from College Park to Wilmington. White drove it every weekend. "I had a girl there, which was some incentive, but I really just wanted to be home," he says. And as the mileage on his Dodge Challenger rose, so did two much more significant numbers—his weight and Maryland's national ranking. It was not a coincidence.
Jerry Claiborne, a Bear Bryant disciple, had been brought in to coach the Maryland team in 1972. The Terrapins had made one of those Bottom 10 rankings the year before Claiborne arrived. They were weak, and they were small. Claiborne ordered up a weight-training program. At the time. White had just completed a season as a 212-pound fullback and defensive lineman on the freshman team. Against Virginia he ran 17 yards for a touchdown the first time he carried the ball. Maryland publicist Jack Zane never forgot the scene. "All 11 Virginia players had a shot at him," says Zane. "He carried three of them into the end zone. They looked like they were riding a streetcar."
But before White's sophomore season Claiborne called him in and said no more fullback, "not if you want to make All-America and play in the pros." It sounded like a good deal to White. "I do," he said. The vows having been said, White headed for the weight room. In the ensuing two years he went from 212 pounds of fullback to 248 pounds of tackle, and from bench-pressing 260 pounds to 430. And Maryland moved from the Bottom 10 list to an ACC championship, the Liberty Bowl and the Peach Bowl.
As a senior White was a shoo-in for the Outland Trophy. Among his credentials was the fact that the season before, when Maryland played Penn State, he tackled John Cappelletti—the eventual Heisman winner—10 times, twice for big losses. (Years later, when Cappelletti was with the Rams, a White tackle would separate his shoulder.) Because of White's notoriety, Syracuse coach Frank Maloney, tried to neutralize him by using two offensive tackles directly in front of him, instead of a tackle and a smaller guard. When the tackles still couldn't block White, Maloney inserted a third, with no more success. Maloney called White "the greatest lineman I've ever seen." Such compliments apparently went unnoticed by White.
If by this time one personality trait had emerged besides his amazing single-mindedness—a girl who knew him then said White's idea of a date "was to go back to his room and watch a replay of a Maryland football game"—it was his inability to see himself as others did.
At the end of his junior season at Maryland, Claiborne's office ordered White to come in. While waiting outside, he asked one assistant, then another, "What's wrong? What'd I do?" He knew it was serious. Finally, Claiborne summoned him inside. "Congratulations," he said. "You made the All-America team."