Michigan State Football Legend Lorenzo White Answers Your Email!


One of the greatest football players of all time, Lorenzo White's on field brilliance is only rivaled by the man he is off of it.
One of the greatest football players of all time, Lorenzo White's on field brilliance is only rivaled by the man he is off of it.


           “The most accomplished” running back ever to play at Michigan State, Lorenzo White is a man who needs little introduction. The Spartan legend owns the all-time MSU records for rushing yards (4,887), rushing touchdowns (43), rushing attempts (1,082), and 100 yard games (23). Spartan Nation sent in questions to be answered on Spartan Nation Radio by White. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, only one-third of the questions Spartan Nation members sent in were able to be asked. So, without further ado, here are the questions and answers with MSU great Lorenzo White.

The first question comes from Ralph:

“Of all the guys he played against in practice, who was the toughest Michigan State defender in his time at MSU?”

Lorenzo White: “Probably Percy Snow.”

Percy Snow is one player that a ball carrier did not want to see. One of the all-time greats at linebacker, Snow was an inductee to the 2010 MSU Athletics Hall of Fame, along with White.

Spartan Nation Radio: “What does it mean people say a running back had great vision?” as he cited a quote from one coach in the Big Ten: “The thing about Lorenzo was he was a wider body but he had such great vision: he was able to avoid the hit.”

LW: “To me what that skill, before I even get into that, I used to think about when I was little and I would always worry about ‘I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t fast like the other running backs’. Until one coach said: ‘In between the tackles we’d give you the ball because you make everybody miss. When I was younger that never really applied, I mean really came to me until I got older… And I always wound up with more yards than the guy who was faster than me. I didn’t know how to decide between the two, which one was better (even harder than that): either to make people miss or having that speed. So I think I was kind of hung up on that speed… I think being able to see it and being able to create it, and that’s what I teach the guys when I’m going around coaching is that sometimes everybody always says ‘He’s got a gift, he’s got that ability’. But if I tell you 50% out of that was me setting that guy up and having that vision to see that guy that’s coming at me, I’m not really looking at him, I’m looking at the guy behind him. Because I know I’m going to make that guy miss. Being able to see the field and put the guys the way you want them to be.”

Spartan Nation: “Why do you think you had such good balance?”

LW: “That was another one thing that I like, and I teach guys that. Being able to be under control when you run and being able to…put your body in certain positions and being able to be in control at all times… When you say feet, I know that Coach Perles always used to tell me I have good balancing skills, I have big feet, triple E’s, 13 triple E’s. But my thing is (and I teach this to guys right now) balance is everything. And I think that was the reason why.”

The next question came from an Ohio State fan who had the misfortune of seeing his team play against White.

Greg in Columbus: “In his entire career, did the first guy who ever tried to tackle him do it? I just remember him running through every one of our guys, it always seemed like the 3rd or 5th or 7th guy got him. Did anyone ever tackle Lorenzo the first time they got to him?”

White’s response showed why he was such a great player.

LW: “The first guy I know that I’m going to make that guy miss, so I’m always looking at the next defender. So no, for me that was like the game: if I can’t make that guy miss, I’m not a good running back.”

Pete in East Lansing had the next question: “You hear so many NFL players say that the game really becomes a business. Can you ask Lorenzo: did he enjoy his time in the NFL or at Michigan State better?”

LW: “As exactly what he just said. The business part kind of takes away from the game. You’re going to still have that, but college was no worries. You get out there, you’re playing and you got that win and you got that… student section and it’s fun. And then, as anything, once it becomes a business, there’s more things that you’re thinking about. And you’re out there playing but when you start worrying about contracts, you start worrying about ‘I gotta perform for it, I gotta perform up to my abilities’. But anytime you have that kind of pressure on you, it kind of takes a little of the fun out.”

The next question came from Travis: “Ask Lorenzo if he ever wants to get into college coaching. I think he’d be a great college coach.”

LW: “I love the place that I’m coaching at now. Like training some of the high school [players] and some of the youth around the country. I’m doing that from February all the way until July. I go all over the country training kids. As far as being a college coach and a pro coach, Oh my God, my hat goes off to those coaches. I mean that business, you really, really, really [have to love it]. I love the game, but I played it a long time- I don’t really love it that much. That’s a lot of pressure that those guys are under and I always said (when I talk to the kids- they think I’m crazy)… you have got to be crazy to play this game. As far as the coaching part of it on this level I love what I’m doing now. Like I said, I can’t give a professional coach and a college coach and even some of the high school coaches enough praise about being able to handle that. I mean it’s…time-consuming.”

Unfortunately for the ‘professional’ coaching world, it will never have White among its members. This is a true loss because Lorenzo could be a great coach for a lot of college kids out there. White’s secrets could help a lot of college athletes along to the pros. Still, one can understand his reasons for not doing so.

The interview took a different turn as Mike in Owosso, Michigan chimed in:

“Lorenzo, I know you are too classy to tell us who, but you were such a big recruit coming out of [high school] , we’re hearing a lot today about schools that cheat by paying players. Without naming names, did you have a lot of schools that tried to pay you or tried to break the rules? As good of a player as you were, they probably backed up Brinks trucks to your house.”

White’s answer was one of his most interesting responses:

LW: “I just answer that one by saying I lived in a glass house at Michigan State. Coming from Florida and really only visiting three schools out of the hundreds of schools that were recruiting me, and not taking a visit from any of the Florida schools, I was up on a lot of heat at Michigan State. Because they said that I came there only because Michigan State was giving me money. But the NCAA lived at Michigan State when I was there. So I saw the NCAA every summer. After my first year at Michigan State and for the next three years I had to see the NCAA.”

Spartan Nation Radio followed that up with: “Did you have other schools that tried to cheat to get you, again don’t name them…Did you have to go through all that with other schools that wanted you?”

LW: “No. At that point a lot of schools did. A lot of schools really, really wanted me in that capacity. I would say maybe so, but I don’t think that you would never ever know that unless you went to those schools.”

The next question was a bit sentimental, and came from a former classmate of Lorenzo’s, taking him down memory lane:

David: “I went to school with Lorenzo back in the day. He may remember me: we took a science class together and I’m the nerd guy who tried to help him every week. The thing I loved about him was so down-to-earth: he never tried to big-time anybody in class, and when we were in labs he tried to help. Finally I said, Lorenzo: you want me to do it? And he always wanted me to explain, he never took it for granted, he never big-timed people because he was an athlete. Please tell Lorenzo I was so proud to be a friend of his at Michigan State: he was not a stereotypical football player.”

LW: “I love that [laughs] because that was me and I do remember David.”

David also had this to add in his email: “P.S.: It didn’t help me with Clarissa trying to get a date: she was more interested in him and she was our lab partner”

White’s response was filled with laughter:

LW: “When you’re in those classes and when you’re taking that lab, yeah Clarissa was hot.”

The questions then took a serious turn as one fan asked Lorenzo to tackle a serious issue being talked about today:

Eric: “Lorenzo, when you were at Michigan State, I remember you doing so many media interviews, it seemed like every time we opened a newspaper you were in a different part of the state promoting MSU. It would seem to me at some point it would be appropriate to pay college football players in sports that make money. That’s a discussion going on right now. What do you think? Do you feel like a degree was enough or would you like to have seen some pay for athletes?”

LW: “Well, that is frequently [asked] question that comes up. Yeah, that is one of the hot topics in college football today. Yes, I think just because of that reason I never really got to hang out with my teammates that much and I had to come to practice late sometimes when you’re going to do any type of thing for the university. That’s one thing I can really say about my coach: that he really, really, really stressed that. So going out and publicizing Michigan State or doing whatever it takes for the university. I just think that when you use yourself that much, true enough you’re getting the scholarship but if you would look at (I would say) over half of the football players who come to the university (if they had to go on paying somebody paying for that scholarship or for them to get it) it’s a lot of things they have to go through. But those parents- they’re not well off to be having two or three jobs, but they sacrificed it to do it and that’s a lot. I mean that’s asking a lot. Yes, I think they should get some type of stipend for coming to school on a scholarship.”

Another serious email came in from Penny:

 “I’m studying to be a doctor at Michigan State and I think it’s so cool that Lorenzo White’s coming on. When you watched him play, he ran the ball so much and took such a beating, does he have any long-lasting issues with concussions?”

LW: “No, I don’t have any problems of any sort with concussions. You know your body is going to feel that wear and tear when you get older and when you get out of playing football. I think we’re [football players] trained so well to deal with pain, and when you get out of football, and your body knows something else different from playing little league football all the way through to high school, to college and then pro. Once you’re done and after you get out of that first year, I would say the first year and a half to two your body knows something different and… now when I get sore I’m like: ‘Man, what did I do?’ I mean, when I played I’d get sore, and now it lasts longer.”

The next question, or rather story, is an interesting one. Particularly that this man is from Hoover, Alabama.

Howard: “I went to a card show last year where Bo Jackson was signing autographs. I paid $25 to get in line for an autograph and when I got to the front of the line I asked him: “What does it feel like to have Lorenzo White’s Heisman trophy sitting on your mantle? You robbed my boy Lo.” He asked me if I wanted an autograph, and I said: “No, I just wanted to tell you that you suck: you stole Lorenzo’s Heisman.”

Lorenzo laughed at that question, but answered with class:

LW: “You know, I feel the same way, but I gotta give props where props are due and Bo Jackson was a great running back as well. I guess in that instance they weren’t giving it to younger players at that time. But did he deserve it? Yeah- if you add up everything that he did, yeah you could make for a pitch for it that he did deserve the trophy. And it was just unfortunate that I didn’t get it.”

Spartan Nation Radio followed up by asking him about the love he gets from MSU fans:

LW: “That part of it never really gets old. And that’s all we have is the memories that we have and how people respect you. And I’m just happy.”

Is it still special to him, you ask?

LW: “Always, always. I enjoy coming back to Lansing…I wouldn’t trade it for the world. If I had to do everything over, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The next question came from Allen:

“I recently was talking to my son about how great of a player Lorenzo White was. So my son (who [White] wasn’t playing at the time, he wasn’t even born when Lorenzo White was playing) went and got his old media guide and looked at all of his stats. And he said: “Daddy, I think Lorenzo is the best Spartan ever.” Ask Lorenzo who does he think is a better Spartan than him.”

Before White could answer, Spartan Nation Radio added that Bubba Smith thinks that Lorenzo is one of the best Spartans ever. The following answer shows again the great humility White possesses:

LW: “Like he said for me, I’m saying it for him. I think he’s one of the great Spartans.”

The next emailer asked about White’s undying competitive spirit:

Alex: “Lorenzo, I hear that athletes once they retire never get rid of the competitive spirit. Do you golf or what do you do now to keep competitive?”

LW: As far as the competitive spirit I think that training and dealing with the young kids, and any time that I play anything (I don’t care if it’s cards, checkers or if it’s going across the street- who can get across the street faster with the kids): I always try to win.”

A different David asked Lorenzo for his most fond memory:

“Hondo, the first Michigan State football game I ever went to was Michigan State versus Northwestern when Lorenzo White takes the ball up the middle, hits a Northwestern linebacker, steps on his chest and his facemask as he runs over him. Would you ask Lorenzo- that was my favorite memory ever, what was his?”

LW: “I would say the first game getting in would be that Northwestern game and coming in that will always be one of the great games. But the one that I will never ever forget (and I was so mentally drained and physically drained) is the night we played Indiana for the Rose Bowl. I mean that game, not even the game, leading up to that week how the buzz was coming up to that game. Everybody everywhere I’d go, from the store to getting gas at the gas station how everybody was just hyped about ‘Hey, hey you gotta go rush, we got a big game this week, got a big game this week’. And then coming up to the game, man the game itself, that game was more: I would say it took more out of me than the Rose Bowl itself.”

The Spartans, thanks in part to White’s play, beat Indiana to go to the Rose Bowl and then defeated USC in the Granddaddy of them all. Those two games and many others in which White played cemented Lorenzo into the minds of many Spartan fans.

Jason: “I’ve been a season ticket holder at Michigan State for over forty years. My greatest memories at Michigan State truly go back to the Lorenzo White years. What a class act of a person that he was: I remember once meeting him at the Harrison Road House. And after dinner, my son walking up and asking for an autograph, not only did he give it, but he sat and talked with my son for several moments. To this day, my son is now a grown man and Lorenzo White remains his favorite Spartan. Please let Lorenzo White know on behalf of the Spartan Nation: thank you for such great years as a Spartan.”

White’s final answer is one of his best:

LW: “Like I said, I bleed green and white. And like I said, I wouldn’t change anything that ever happened at Michigan State for me.”