Sun, Oct 26, 2008 - Page 19 News List

NFL: White has no trouble pulling his own weight

BIG RUNNER The Titans’ Lendale White, half of the ‘Thunder and Lightning’ duo at USC, is coming into his own in the big leagues, despite his hefty frame

AP , NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

The Tennessee Titans’ LenDale White, front, carries the ball as the Kansas City Chiefs’ DaJuan Morgan tries for a tackle last Sunday in Kansas City, Missouri.

PHOTO: AFP

LenDale White is having the last laugh.

This is the guy who was overshadowed by Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush at University of Southern California (USC), the same guy who dropped from a top 15 pick in the 2006 NFL draft into the middle of the second round because of questions about his weight, health and commitment to football.

So guess who’s tied with Bush for the NFL-lead in scoring with eight touchdowns? None other than the guy often derided for his heft.

“There’s jokes can be said, but so far the only joke is that I have the longest run from scrimmage this year, as big as I am and out of shape as I am,” White said. “It’s amazing. This big, out-of-shape guy ran 80 yards without anyone grabbing him.”

Of that USC trio, White is coming off his best game yet as a pro, with Leinart benched at the Arizona Cardinals and Bush, who texted his friend on his big day, out for up to a month after surgery to fix the same kind of knee injury White played through last year.

White showed exactly why Fisher did that against Kansas City as he scored a career-high three touchdowns, including an 80-yard burst that was Tennessee’s longest since 1983. He also ran for a career-high 149 yards. He now has more touchdowns through six games than he scored last year while starting 16 games and despite having torn meniscus in his left knee.

SPLITTING THE WORK

This season White is splitting the work with rookie Chris Johnson, the first-round pick who has started five of six games for undefeated Tennessee. White, who shared the nickname “Thunder and Lightning” with Bush in college, responded by making friends with Johnson and coming up with a new nickname: “Smash and Dash.”

The Titans promised in the preseason to split the carries as evenly as possible between White and Johnson. They did well the first three games with White getting only one fewer rushing attempt than Johnson. But White had only 14 carries combined against Minnesota and Baltimore compared to 35 for the rookie.

White, listed at 107kg, started working harder to lose a few extra kilos, including spending some extra sessions after practice.

That hasn’t stopped Fisher from having his own fun. He joked that White must have had a salad the night before his 80-yard run and didn’t catch his breath until midnight before getting serious.

“We got in a couple of ballgames where our numbers and carries and snaps got a little skewed, but we got back on track, and that’s what we hope for is balance between the two,” Fisher said.

GETTING ALONG

Veteran center Kevin Mawae said White has understood his role with Johnson, using that to feed off each other.

“I’ve never been on a team where you have two running backs with such abilities and not have to fight over carries, over who gets the starts,” Mawae said.

For now, Johnson said he is the “Smash” until he can match or top White’s 80-yard touchdown dash. White insists he’s not trying to match the speedy rookie but just trying to get into the best shape possible after hearing how he’s the short-yardage back in this offense.

“I’ve been in good shape. They weren’t upset when I came in. Everything is fine,” White said.

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