Heisman winner to return next year

Updated: December 19, 2003, 9:43 PM ET
Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- Heisman Trophy winner Jason White has been granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA and will return to Oklahoma next season, the quarterback said Friday.

White, whose previous two seasons were cut short by knee injuries, surprised his team with the announcement during a team huddle at the end of practice.

"Anyone who has played college football will understand (my decision)," White said. "I had been leaning this way and just decided today that I am sure this is what I want to do. I really look forward to another year at Oklahoma."

White, listed as a senior, had shrugged off questions all year about whether he would return to Oklahoma for another season or enter the upcoming NFL draft.

He repeatedly said he wouldn't reveal his decision until the end of the season, but changed his mind after getting the NCAA's approval Friday and consulting with his parents and coach Bob Stoops over the past two weeks.

"I talked with my parents and coaches and decided this is what I wanted to do," he said.

The Sooners' will face No. 2 LSU on Jan. 4 in the Sugar Bowl for the Bowl Championship Series' national championship.

White is hoping to become the third quarterback to win the Heisman and the national title in the same season, joining Florida State's Charlie Ward (1993) and Florida's Danny Wuerffel (1996).

Recent Heisman-winning quarterbacks haven't fared as well, with Florida State's Chris Weinke (2000) and Nebraska's Eric Crouch (2001) following up their Heisman wins with subpar title-game performances.

If he can't do it this season, though, he'll have a pretty good chance next year.

With White returning next season, Oklahoma will welcome back all but one starter from its record-setting offense -- the Sooners scored a school-record 587 points this season and led the nation in points per game (45.1).

"We're obviously excited," Stoops said. "Jason is a great player and a great leader on our team. We've got a number of other good players who will be back next season and it's encouraging to think about that team with Jason at quarterback."

The 23-year-old senior leads the nation in passing efficiency, completing 64 percent for 3,744 yards, 40 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.

His comeback from two serious knee injuries was one of the feel-good stories of the season.

Those injuries led to questions about his durability -- not to mention ability. He managed to beat out three quarterbacks for the starting job, but was still considered by many to be the Sooners' lone question mark coming into the season.

But White shined from the start. Indeed, his statistics probably would have been gaudier if Stoops hadn't pulled him from some lopsided games.

In addition to the Heisman, White was honored as the AP Player of the Year and he won the Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to the nation's top quarterback.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press