Jenni Carlson: Fifteen years after Jason White won the Heisman, the former OU quarterback hopes Kyler Murray does what he didn’t.
Jason White didn’t feel any different when he stepped onto the Superdome turf that January night back in 2004. Sure, he had won the Heisman Trophy only a few weeks earlier. Yes, the Sugar Bowl against LSU was his first game since beating out Eli Manning and Larry Fitzgerald for the little bronze statue. But winning the Heisman didn’t change how the Oklahoma quarterback felt. LSU defenderssaw things differently. “I never heard so many people talk trash,” White said the other day. “That game was one of the worst.” He chuckled. “Everything was, ‘Oh, the Heisman winner’ or ‘Take that, Heisman winner.’It was always something.” Fifteen years after Whitewon the first in a recent string of Heismans for the Sooners, Kyler Murray is trying do something White failed to do. Heck, it’s something Sam Bradford and Baker Mayfield didn’t do either. Win the Heisman and the national title. Seventeen players have done so in the eight decades of the Heisman’s existence, but if you eliminate Matt Leinart’s double-dip because USC vacated the 2004 title,there have only been four in the past 20 years. White was actually part of a run of four Heisman winners in six years who lost title tilts. The Heisman Jinx actually became a thing. White doesn’t believe in any of that, but still, headmits winning college football’s most prestigious award is taxing. “This whole week ... it’s draining,” White said. “You go to the college football awards show, and then from there, you get up early Friday morning and fly to New York. In New York, you have event after event. “Although it was fun and exciting and something you’ll always remember, it also took a toll.” When White got back to Norman, he didn’t step off the treadmill either. He did interviews. He made appearances. Remember, as popular as OU quarterbacks of recent years have been, White was beloved in this state. He’s a native of small-town Oklahoma who won the Heisman after tearing both of his knees. People wanted to see him, hug him, congratulate him. White understood. “I was honored to be a part of it,” he said, “and honored to share the stories from it.” Still, if he could go back, he might not have been so agreeable in those days. He might had said no a little more often, though as a salt-of-the-earth guy that might not have been easy. He believes he fully returned to football mode once the Sooners started practicing for the bowl. His social calendar shrunk, and his extra obligations diminished. His focus was the Tigers. Turns out, their focus was him. They made life difficult that January night in New Orleans, getting to him often and hurrying him regularly. White was 13 of 37 for 102 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. It was easilytheworst game of his career, much less the season. Can Murray do what White couldn’t? First, of course, Murray has to win the Heisman, no sure thing. Regardless of what happens, White hopes Murray will soak up everything. Remember the people and the places. Savor the emotions and the excitement. Live in the moment. “He’s one of very few guys that got selected to be on that stage,” White said. “You’ve just got to enjoy that moment because you’ll look back when you’re my age and be like, ‘Man, that was such a great experience.’”
Former Oklahoma quarterback Jason White recalled the week he won the Heisman Trophy in 2003 as “fun and exciting and something you’ll always remember, it also took a toll.”