TEMPE, Ariz. – Wilford “Whizzer” White, Arizona State’s first legendary football star and the father of former NFL quarterback Danny White, died on Thursday. He was 84.
White, a charter inductee into both the ASU Sports Hall of Fame and the Sun Devil Ring of Honor, was a running back from 1947-50 and finished his career with 3,173 rushing yards — the school record at the time and still fourth on the all-time list.
His No. 33 was retired by the school and is one of only five numbers retired and taken out of use. He continued to live in the Phoenix area throughout his life and was a frequent visitor to ASU practices and athletic department functions.
“Whizzer embodied all of the attributes of the Sun Devil Way that we teach our players,” head football coach Todd Graham said. “The mark he left on this program will always echo through Sun Devil Stadium.”
A pioneering legend that paved the way for much of the football program’s success in the late 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, White was the school’s first football star as he rose to national prominence during his All-America season in 1950.
White’s 1,502 rushing yards in 1950 remain the second-highest single-season mark in school annals and his 150.2 yards per game that season still ranks as the top mark. His 22 touchdowns and 136 points, including a school-record 30 against Idaho, are both single-season school records.
He led the program to nine wins for the first time in school history and two consecutive victories over archrival Arizona, turning the tide in the rivalry after the Wildcats had dominated by winning the previous 11 meetings.
White’s legacy at ASU stretched beyond his playing days, however, as his son, Danny, was the Sun Devils’ quarterback from 1971-75 and left the school as its all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. Danny played 13 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997. His No. 11 was also retired and taken out of use.
“Our thoughts are with the White family as we celebrate the life of not only one of our all-time great athletes, but one of our all-time great Sun Devils,” vice president for university athletics Steve Patterson said.
White surpassed the 3,000-yard mark on just 505 carries, more than 100 fewer than the three other Devils who rank ahead of him on the career rushing list. His 48 touchdowns are second most in school history, his 327 points scored are the most of any position player, and he holds the school record for punt-return average. He also excelled as a defensive back, with eight career interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns.
White was born in Mesa on Sept. 26, 1928, and attended Mesa High School. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 1951 NFL Draft and played for them for two seasons as a punt returner and backup running back.