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Leaving Bright Lights, Big City Behind : College football: Cedric White, another highly recruited Dorsey player, finds peace at North Carolina A&T;.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was raining so hard, Cedric White could barely see the football.

He wasn’t alone. The players from North Carolina A&T; and Lane College combined for 21 fumbles, a Division I-AA record, last Saturday in a game won by Lane, 12-4. The A&T; loss at Greensboro, N.C., dropped the Aggies’ home record to 0-5.

White, a defensive lineman for A&T;, was cold, muddy and disappointed. But for a player who could have gone to almost any college he wanted, there are surprisingly few regrets.

“This is where I want to be,” he said earlier this week. “I’m not in the spotlight here, but I’m at peace with myself.”

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A 6-foot-3, 280-pound nose guard, White was a high school standout at Dorsey. He was a junior in 1990 when the school lost, 21-20, to Banning in the City Section semifinals. His teammates included Keyshawn Johnson, Karim Abdul-Jabbar--then Sharmon Shah--and Lamont Warren, now a running back with the Indianapolis Colts.

College scouts kept themselves busy at Dorsey games that season, and White was at the top of most of their lists. He had the size, speed, strength and agility that recruiters love.

USC and UCLA called often, but White eventually signed with Washington. He liked the school’s winning tradition and was also close friends with one its players, Beno Bryant, a former Dorsey star. White also wanted to get out of Los Angeles.

“Cedric often talked about returning to the South and attending a black college,” said Dorsey Coach Paul Knox. “He had lived down there as a kid and was interested in going back. But when he started taking his recruiting visits, I think he saw what big-time Division I football was like and he wanted to be a part of that.”

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After completing two-a-day workouts his first season at Washington, White could see he was not in Coach Don James’ plans and agreed to sit out a season.

James was replaced by assistant Jim Lambright the next season amid an NCAA investigation into rules violations. White decided to stay and started three games in 1993.

Even so, White was unhappy. He said he felt as if he never fit in in Seattle.

“It wasn’t one thing and it certainly had nothing to do with the football team,” he said. “It probably had a lot to do with being away from home for the first time and not being mature enough to handle it. Maybe I should have talked to my coaches more.”

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The summer before his sophomore season, White transferred to North Carolina A&T;, a black agricultural school. The Aggies compete in Division I-AA, so White didn’t lose any eligibility.

North Carolina A&T; has 9,000 students and its football team plays in a campus stadium with a capacity of 21,000. White said the team travels by bus, and each player has one pair of shoes, instead of the three or four he had at Washington.

“Money-wise, the program here just gets by,” he said. “But the players still come to play. They work just as hard, and it means just as much.”

White, 21, has started every game since transferring. This year, he has 26 tackles and two fumble recoveries. The Aggies conclude the season against South Carolina State Saturday at Charlotte.

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White also keeps in touch with his high school friends, among them Johnson and Abdul- Jabbar. He’s proud of their accomplishments, but not jealous.

“Every time I watch a college game on TV, I can’t help but picture myself on the field,” White said. “I figure I could be playing in the USC-UCLA game this weekend. But I’m not regretful. This is fine for me now, and if I’m good enough to go on, I figure I’ll get my chance.”


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