After three years on bench, OSU's White enjoys break-out game

Wednesday, September 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Every year, the world of sports runs lower on names.

Homonyms already are common. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the spindly center who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five titles in the 1980s. Karim Abdul-Jabbar is the veteran NFL running back who has since changed his name to Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar.

Then there is Curt Warner, the retired Seattle Seahawks running back, vs. Kurt Warner, quarterback of the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.

And while most Americans associate the name Reggie White with the legendary NFL defensive end, Oklahoma State fans have a very different image to fit the name.

It belongs to senior OSU tailback Reggie White, who in his first start as a Cowboy Saturday ran for 187 yards in a 36-26 win over Tulsa.

For three years, the name Reggie White didn't mean much to OSU fans. The Liberty, Texas, native spent three years riding the bench while Jamal Fobbs and Nathan Simmons carried the school's running game. And although White said he picked OSU over schools like Texas and Michigan because he thought he would see more playing time, he said he has no complaints about his late bloom.

``It's always worth the wait. Those guys did their time and waited their time,'' he said of Fobbs and Simmons. ``My role was to be a cheerleader and tell them what I saw on the field.''

Growing up, White's mother wouldn't allow him to play organized sports like football and baseball, fearing he would be injured. But when White got to high school, he soon found himself as a star on the Liberty High School football team. And that's not all.

``I played basketball, ran track. I tried to do as much as I could to stay in shape for everything,'' White said.

While most other players went home over the summer, White stayed in Stillwater to train for the season.

Coach Bob Simmons said he saw a different tailback in White Saturday.

``This is as quick as I've seen Reggie hit the hole since I've been here,'' Simmons said of White's opening-day performance. ``And a lot of it just has to do with preparation, how his state of mind was going into it (the season).''

Sparing in words and calm in demeanor, White will not be a different guy now that he has tasted success, teammates say. Primed for the biggest season of his life, White lists team goals such as having a winning year and getting to a bowl game rather than mentioning any personal aims.

``He doesn't really go out much,'' offensive tackle Josh Lind said. ``You don't see him out on the town. He's real humble about the way he runs, though he knows he's a great back.''

That White sprung for more yards in Saturday's game than he gained all of last season didn't surprise the players who have been tackling him throughout the preseason.

``He's the perfect tailback for what you want in the Big 12 -- he's going to run extremely hard, he's got big legs and a good upper body,'' defensive end Zac Warner said. ``You're not going to arm tackle him, you're going to have to bring him down hard with a good solid tackle or have two or three people bring him down.''

Warner said the OSU defense _ long weighed down by an offense that in past seasons didn't carry its share of the weight _ has been begging for a player like White.

``Reggie's not going anywhere. They're going to keep giving him the ball, keep giving him the ball and pound away at people,'' he said.

And as for his famous name? White said he won't be trying to claim ownership of it any time soon.

``It's not about one player. It's not about me, it's not about (quarterback) Tony (Lindsay), it's not about one player on the defense. It's about OSU.''