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Sturm: 19 in ’19 — #12 - Randy White, the baddest guy in the world

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  • Sturm: 19 in ’19 — #12 - Randy White, the baddest guy in the world


    By Bob Sturm 5h ago

    19 in ’19 highlights the 19 most impactful Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks and Stars throughout the history of each franchise. Our staff voted on the top 19 from all four combined lists to create these overall rankings. You can find all of our team lists and profiles here.

    “The Manster.”

    Half man, half monster. The nickname was bestowed upon Randy White by his teammate Charlie Waters, and it remains one of the best monikers in the history of football.

    It also fit perfectly.

    For fourteen seasons, White was the most dominant presence on a Cowboys defense that won an awful lot of games and gained football immortality. He accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish, from the College Football Hall of Fame to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not to mention the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor and splitting a Super Bowl MVP award with his buddy Harvey Martin (thanks to a sack of Craig Morton).

    He was also one of the scariest men to ever play in the National Football League — no small feat for a 265-pound defensive tackle. But how was The Manster built?

    Before we answer that, though, a disclaimer: However good you believe Randy White was, he’s probably even better. That’s because he played during an era where record-keeping was not quite where it needed to be. The NFL started counting sacks as an official statistic in 1982. Therefore, when you search the career sack leaders of the Cowboys franchise, you will be led astray with nonsense that would suggest Jim Jeffcoat, Greg Ellis, and Tony Tolbert have more sacks than White. This claim might then be interpreted by the younger generations that they had a more destructive impact on the line of scrimmage than the Manster, who somehow was able to manage that awesome nickname with only 52 career sacks.

    Absurd.

    John Turney of ProFootballJournal.com used play-by-play records dating back to 1960 and searched for the lost 22 years of sacks. He admits he is depending on those records to be accurate. They are not always perfect, but those manual records work much better than suggesting some of those pre-1982 moments never happened. They did and they should be counted.

    According to the NFL records, Harvey Martin and George Selvie both have 10 career sacks as Cowboys. You certainly know Harvey Martin had that in a season several times over – he even had 20 in one season. The top five sack leaders in Cowboys history according to the “official” stats would be DeMarcus Ware (117), Jim Jeffcoat (94.5), Greg Ellis (77), Tony Tolbert (59) and Ed “Too Tall” Jones (57.5).

    Turney, after studying tape, records and statistics, has adjusted those totals with his work and restored sanity to a proper list of all-time Cowboys sack leaders: DeMarcus Ware (117), Harvey Martin (114), Randy White (111), Ed Jones (106), and George Andrie (97).

    Everyone on that list rushed off the edge except for White. No defensive tackle in the history of this franchise approached his 111 career sacks: Jethro Pugh had 96.5, Bob Lilly 95.5, and then the list drops considerably. That total is good for third-best all-time at his position; the only two men ahead of him — Alan Page (148.5) and John Randle (135.5) — are also Pro Football Hall of Famers.

    By today’s standards, we know what a dominant defensive tackle looks like. 2018 Aaron Donald was unlike anything we have ever seen with 20.5 sacks from the defensive tackle position. His size, quickness and motor should remind people of what White once was. Donald weighs less than 285 pounds. But, again, White was 265 — tiny even for his era.

    That is because he entered the league as a linebacker. White was originally supposed to succeed Lee Roy Jordan at middle linebacker when he was drafted second overall in 1975 (behind Steve Bartkowski and two picks in front of Walter Payton). But that didn’t quite work out due to Dallas’ Flex defense. White felt off-kilter; “[it] went against your natural instincts,” he said.

    That’s when Tom Landry came up with an unconventional solution.

    “Coach Landry called me in his office and told me, ‘Randy, we’re thinking about moving you to defensive tackle. What do you think?'” White said. “I told him, ‘Coach, I just want to play football. I will play wherever you put me. Just give me a chance to play.'”

    That eagerness, though, quickly turned into trepidation.

    “I’m looking and I’m going, ‘OK, we have Ed Jones and Harvey Martin and the middle linebacker job, I didn’t do too good there, so if I don’t make it at the tackle spot where am I going to go?'” he said. “So it was kind of desperation mode for me.”

    White immediately got to work, putting in extra sessions before and after practice with defensive line coach Ernie Stautner, himself a nine-time Pro Bowler at the position. Then he applied whatever lessons he could from his middle linebacker days to make the new position his own.



    White certainly had the ability. He had the work ethic. But he needed more to rise to the very top of the league and become an All-Pro every single year from 1977 to 1985. If you talk to any player who played with or against him over those years, they would tell you without question that Randy White was ahead of his time with his hand skills. The ability to shed blocks, defeat your opponent, yet keep his hands from holding you is an art form that was barely birthed in the 1970’s.

    “I don’t think there is any question that he was ahead of his time with his hands,” said Kurt Peterson, the Cowboys’ center from 1980-1987 and, consequently, a frequent practice opponent.

    Then there was the persona. In reviewing his career, it becomes incredibly clear that The Manster moniker was based largely on the pure levels of fear he inspired among his adversaries. Intimidation was an art form, and the popular memories seem largely based on his ability to terrify his opponents with a skill set and a disposition that kept those unlucky foes up at night.

    “Before you played the Cowboys, you heard it from everyone in the league: Randy White, he is the intimidator of football,” Redskins offensive lineman Mark May, a longtime opponent, told NFL Films. “He was a fierce competitor… he was half monster. Most tackles didn’t have the tenacity and the athletic ability that he had.”

    What wasn’t clear, though, is what made up the totality of his greatness. Was it a ridiculous God-given athletic ability we had seldom seen? Was it his advanced pass-rush techniques? Was it his intimidation? Was it his work rate, motor, and endurance that allowed him to shine when others were tired?

    The answers vary, of course, because defining greatness is never simple and those categories will bleed into each other. But, when someone has better skills and they are willing to work harder and longer to win the battles, they don’t show many signs of weakness. This is where Hall of Fame-level careers can be found.

    Then, the conditioning White had and that relentless motor would allow him to do something that always benefited him — get inside the heads of his opponent.

    “When a guy gets tired — I don’t care how big, strong and fast a guy is, — when he gets tired and you are not, you can beat him,” White said. “That was one of my plans. I always trained hard. I wanted to go in the fourth quarter when my opponent gets tired.”

    All of it made for one heck of a show.

    “One thing that made him different was that we as offensive linemen had to take a knee on the sideline and watch him play. We only did that for a couple guys like Walter Payton and Earl Campbell,” said Peterson, citing White’s signature play of chasing down Scott Fitzkee as a prime example. “Randy, on game day, was just relentless.”



    Motor. Quickness. Power. Relentlessness. Intimidation.

    But what was it that gave him the edge that allowed him to dominate for a decade? If you asked him, it went back to what happened outside the lines. It was his preparation, his training and his incredibly unorthodox approach to football.

    Somehow White had these sharpened trench-skills in his arsenal that he utilized as early as anyone in football and it took him quickly to the top. That is where Dr. Bob Ward, the Cowboys’ strength and conditioning coach as well as a sports scientist, comes into the picture.

    “Dr. Bob” was an innovator. The Cowboys organization back then figured plenty out about the National Football League before their opponents when it came to all facets of the sport. They drafted better and found talent. They ran schemes that seemed ahead of their time on both offense and defense. But what probably doesn’t get enough credit for those dominant teams and players is the training methods and programs that shaped them. Despite the franchise’s stars lifting weights outdoors (there was no such thing as a weight room) in the Texas heat and lagging along with the rest of the football world about the value of water breaks during practice, the Cowboys had some edges that are still not talked about enough.

    Ultimately, Landry and Tex Schramm gave Ward carte blanche to mold their teams in whatever ways he saw fit. He took advantage.

    What would this mean for the training of Randy White, Charlie Waters, Too Tall Jones and the rest of the players who bought in to the value of this form of training? In a nutshell, daily work built on a wide range of martial arts. Ward believed in varied techniques and specialties. There is no wisdom in spending too much time in a single direction. “All the arts and sciences work together like the alphabet,” he said.

    For White, that meant leveraging Ward’s connection with Danny Inosanto, Bruce Lee’s old training partner and a master of Jeet Kune Do, a Cantonese hybrid martial art largely credited to Lee. The usual bag and sled drills were now accompanied by various drills holding a pair of Filipino fighting sticks. It was seemingly antithetical to how the position was played; you can’t shed blocks with your hands occupied. But White came to understand the larger gains the technique brought him.

    “Some players were like, “We can’t play football with sticks,” but the whole point was you develop the skills with the sticks in your hands, and when you drop the sticks, everything you do with the sticks you would do with your hands while playing,” White said. “So you’re training your hands and body to move and it makes you use your left hand and left side as good as your right side. Your footwork, your timing, your distance — it’s not the absolute, but it was one ingredient that I had the opportunity to be exposed to and really it kind of helped me take it to a different level and helped my career to be as successful as it was.”

    Ward was constantly looking for an edge for his players and the most willing participants would follow him anywhere. White was always up for Ward’s next idea. But every idea and concept Ward taught started with controlling the mind.

    Back in 1985, Ward’s methods were published in the Fall issue of “Superfit” magazine. He had a quote in there that summarized his thoughts about the martial arts and football:

    “If I had to choose between weight training and using the martial arts and other techniques to develop speed, stamina, and skill, I would choose the latter. The National Football League has gone too far in the direction of weight training. In the process, the value of weights has been distorted.”

    Think about that for a moment. Here is an NFL strength coach who thinks football players lift weights too much and don’t train properly for what can actually help them succeed.

    Ward knew he needed that from his bosses to be successful, “I do not know that anybody to this day would allow or be so permissible as Coach Landry and Tex Schramm were. I traveled at my own discretion searching for all different ways to increase the Cowboys’ program from mediocre to a super conditioning, technology, and all elements program. It was unbelievable how they would allow me to do that.”

    Ultimately, Ward says that every one of his ideas and concepts was about controlling the mind. And, he said, “Randy embraced it more than anyone… he worked through that physically to a point where he could make it unconscious. An artless art.”

    Which isn’t to say they wouldn’t spar from time to time, like the time Ward dared to tell Randy he didn’t know how to hit very well.

    “What do you mean I don’t know how to hit?” White shot back.

    Ward explained it was simply a matter of balance, and utilizing his left side as effectively as his right. Then, decades before sports analytics became prevalent, Ward backed it up with data.

    “I had accelerometers on the bags and would know how much force he was generating,” he said. “Not guessing or trying to feel it; I put numbers on things. It was all analytics to see where Randy was with everything he did.”

    White credits Ward for his success. The Manster has no doubt that he and his Cowboy teammates were exposed to techniques unheard of elsewhere in the NFL.

    “I don’t think we were, I know we were,” he said. “I don’t think anyone else even had the thought of bringing martial artists in to help you with becoming better at playing football… Coach Landry allowed Dr. Bob to implement all of these different ways of training into our football, but in doing so, he was way ahead of everybody. Everybody was playing catch-up to the Cowboys.”

    Ward, in turn, credits White, who was so driven that he once went 15 three-minute rounds with Chai Sirisute, a leader in both Thai Boxing and Muay Thai in the United States. For Ward, it calls to mind a slogan from Bruce Lee himself.

    “Unless we have the ‘want to’ there is no ‘can do,'” he said. “Randy was a ‘want to’ guy and unbelievable guy. I didn’t only bring it to him, but he was so receptive… This guy would push you the nth (degree). Nothing on the field would touch what he would do in training.”

    Then, White would combine it with the other more obvious elements of his persona — the ridiculous conditioning, his unparalleled intimidation — and out came this seamless package. Surely, the appearance of a Texas Cowboy (who was born and raised in Maryland) gave you the impression he dismounted his horse outside Texas Stadium and merely roped cattle with Walt Garrison to prepare for that day’s game.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Randy White remains a treasure in 2019. To this day, if you contact him, he is either driving his truck, out on his tractor working his fields or talking football and telling stories about John Hannah, Anthony Munoz or Ron Jaworski.

    The latter, especially.

    When asked about the Monday Night Football Game against the Saints in 1984 and the sack he made to tie up a game late in the fourth quarter (when he loved to do his best work), he bubbled with excitement.



    “Why they threw that pass (on 3rd and 18), I still won’t know,” he recalled. “I got a good shot on Stabler. I think his head hit the ground first and then his feet. Any time I would see Kenny after that, he said, ‘When you hit me, Randy, that was the last play I ever played in the NFL.'”

    There are stories for days, and you wish he would keep telling them. Like when you ask him about the most memorable sack he ever had.

    “Probably that one against Stabler, I will always remember that one,” he said. “But there were some against Ron Jaworski. I hit him in the NFL Championship Game when they beat us up there. The second play of the game they threw a play-action pass. And I beat the guard immediately, and I grabbed Jaworski. I remember, I was intentionally trying to knock him goofy, right?”



    “And I grabbed him around the waist, and I slammed him down on his head! I drove my face into his face. And when I got up, I knocked myself goofy. When I got up, I kept seeing those black light things shooting in front of my eyes, right. And I always wondered if it bothered Jaworski. Because, you know, I started shaking my head to get the cobwebs out.

    “So I ran into Ron at a trade show a few years ago, and I said, “Hey Ron, do you remember the championship game in the first quarter when I got through and I nailed you. Did that hurt you at all?”

    “Oh yeah, Randy,” Jaworski replied. “Shit, I didn’t recover for the whole game.”

    “Good,” White told him. “It knocked me cuckoo, too.”

    Now, 31 years since he last played, the legend carries on, and the man remains the toughest guy you have ever seen. He’s certainly still the champion of his age bracket. Nobody his age would have a chance if they decided to battle for the belt with The Manster. And, make no mistake, he is staying ready.

    “I’ve been training through the years,” he said. “I had a knee replacement about a year and a couple months ago, and I just started back. We do Pekiti-Tirsia Kali (a Filipino martial art). I miss doing it, and we have more fun sparing and hitting each other with sticks and fake knives. It’s something I enjoy.”

    As our conversation came to a close, he told me about a recent trip to New York. He was there for a televised roundtable alongside fellow defensive line greats Howie Long, Jason Taylor, Bruce Smith and Michael Strahan. He couldn’t help but chime in when Taylor mentioned playing with a chip on his shoulder throughout his own career.

    “I just said: ‘If you don’t think you’re the baddest guy in the world when you walk out onto that football field, you might as well just stay home,'” White recalled. “Howie then chimed in, ‘At least you want to be in the top five.’

    “I thought that was really funny.”
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion
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