University of Oklahoma
Jason White grew up in the tiny town of Tuttle, Oklahoma, population 4,000. On Saturdays in the fall, he could almost the echoes of "Boomer Sooner" rolling through Owen Field on the Oklahoma University campus. Tuttle was 20 miles from Owen Field, but for a youngster like White, it seemed like it was right around the corner. And there was never a doubt in his mind that he would play there one day.
It wasn't easy as White had to overcome two major knee injuries and sit out two medical red-shirt seasons, but when he finally got his chance to play, he made the most of it. The 6-3, 225-pound quarterback led the Sooners to 27 wins in his 31 starts and he won the 68th Maxwell Award as college football's player of the year in 2004. He is the first OU player to win the honor since Tommy McDonald, the Eagles' Hall of Fame receiver, won it in 1956.
As a senior, White completed 231 of his 354 pass attempts for 2,961 yards and 33 touchdowns. His yardage and touchdown numbers were down slightly from his junior year but that was because he shared the ball with freshman Adrian Peterson, who burst onto the scene in 2004 with 1,843 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
"They are unselfish and really don't care how many throws or touches that anybody is getting," coach Bob Stoops said. "They just want to win and help complement the team. Our players have a great example in Jason White."
"Jason's poise and the way he's managed the game this year is far better than last year," said Oklahoma's offensive coordinator Chuck Long, who won the Maxwell Award in 1985 when he was a senior at Iowa. "We were (ahead) by halftime in a lot of games last year, so he never got to experience much adversity. He's dealt with adversity this year."
Oklahoma was 12-0 in their regular season and conference schedule. Twice, they were trailing in the second half and White brought them back to win. He passed for two second half touchdowns to spark a win over Kansas State and he threw three second half touchdown passes to spoil Texas A&M's bid for an upset. The Sooners were down twice by 14 points in that game, but White threw five touchdown passes to lift his team to a 42-35 victory.
"That was the one signature game that you said as a coach, 'He has grown and matured from last year,'" Long said.
White won the Heisman Trophy after his junior year and could have entered the 2004 NFL draft. However, he chose to return for his final season at Oklahoma, where he earned his degree in sociology in December. Said Stoops: "We had more seniors on this team (26) than any other team we've had. I think Jason has an attachment and a close relationship with all of them."
"Guys rally around him," John Dorsey, director of scouting for the Green Bay Packers told USA Today. "He's a strong leader. He's very tough. He's battled back from knee surgery, so he's earned the respect of his teammates. He's very smart and has a grasp of that offense and he knows how to move the chains."
And what does all this success mean for Jason White in Tuttle, Oklahoma. "They painted my name on the water tower," he said. "It was a pretty neat deal."