Wanting to Return West, White to Talk With Robinson

Times Staff Writer

Ram Coach John Robinson will be reunited Monday with the player he calls “the toughest man I’ve ever been around.”

Charles White, who won a Heisman Trophy while playing for Robinson at USC in 1979, became a free agent Thursday when he cleared waivers asked by the Cleveland Browns on their former first-round draft choice.

Friday the Rams invited him to fly to Los Angeles Monday to meet with Robinson.

“I would like to play anywhere right now,” White said by phone from Cleveland. “I need a job.”


Next season would have been the last of the six-year, $1 million-plus agreement he had with the Browns. Because he cleared waivers, he would have to negotiate a new contract with the Rams, but both sides indicated that would not be a problem.

Said Robinson: “It would be nice to bring him in here and give him a chance to re-establish his credibility as a player.”

White was excited about the prospect of playing for Robinson again and fulfilling the pro promise that, beset by injuries and drugs, never materialized in Cleveland.

“Right now they’re the number one choice because they’re the first team to contact me,” he said.


White’s attorney, Mike Flanagan of Los Angeles, said, “There are other teams interested in Charles, but if you gave him his choice of playing anywhere in the world, it would be in L.A.”

White grew up in the San Fernando Valley, as did his wife Judy. They have three children.

“He could see himself with the Raiders or the Rams,” Flanagan said.

Ron Wolf, head of the Raiders’ personnel operations, said, “We haven’t discussed it yet, (but) we have another running back from USC (Marcus Allen) who does pretty well for us.”


For that matter, the Rams have Eric Dickerson.

“Right now, I’d just be happy to get my foot in the door,” White said. “Wherever they think I should play would be best for me.”

Said Flanagan: “He (White) is going to be starting over. It would definitely be different than the way Robinson used him at USC.”

At USC White rushed for 5,598 yards (5.5 average), the second highest NCAA career total behind Tony Dorsett’s 6,082. As a senior, he averaged 180.3 yards per game and in the Rose Bowl victory against Ohio State, White carried 39 times for 247 yards.


In 1980 the Browns drafted him on the first round with a choice, coincidentally, acquired from the Rams in a trade. He missed the entire ’83 season with a broken ankle and leaves Cleveland showing only 9 touchdowns and 942 yards rushing on 276 attempts in four seasons. He also caught 83 passes for 684 yards and 1 touchdown.

Meanwhile, he spent time in a drug treatment center and for the past two years has been lecturing high school students against drug abuse.

Robinson and White haven’t talked since White was placed on waivers June 3.

“I don’t know what he has planned,” White said, “if there is gonna be a tryout or what. But I feel real good about my health and everything. I’m ready to go.”


White said he asked the Browns for a change after last season.

“We went in there asking for a trade or to be released because we--my wife and myself--just felt there wasn’t any light here. When you think it’s all over, it’s best to start somewhere else. We didn’t want to go into training camp and, all of a sudden, they release you.”

Ernie Accorsi, the Browns’ assistant to the president, said, “There was some great feeling for him here. This isn’t a typical paring of the roster.

“We tried to work a trade with his cooperation. He indicated a Southern California team would be his preference.”


But nobody--not even Robinson--wanted to claim White on waivers and have to pick up the last year of his contract.

“With someone with as much class as Charles White, we didn’t want to bring him into camp and put him through that,” Accorsi said. “I’d rather see him go where he wants to go.”

And the Rams are where White wants to go.

“This way I have a chance to come in with the rookies and learn the system,” he said. “I don’t know what’s gonna come out of this meeting. I hope it can benefit both of us.


“My wife and I have our fingers crossed, and we feel the Lord has a big influence in guiding us toward where we’re gonna be.”