Jason White had tears in his eyes, so Chuck Long knew something was up. White displays all the emotion of the Marlboro Man, so Long didn't have to be Tony Soprano's psychiatrist to know something was amiss in his quarterback with the wounded knees.
The parties don't even agree on when the fateful meeting occurred. Long says February 2003, before spring practice, but White says after a spring scrimmage in 2003, which would make it March or April.
Matters not. All that matters is this: White arrived at Long's office that day ready to quit. Ready to step away from the sport that had brought him so much pain and heartache.
The other day, I asked White to name his favorite coach ever. He said Long, then told me this story. White said he'd never shared it with any Oklahoma media, just a San Diego writer when Long was hired by San Diego State after the 2005 season.
You know the background. How White was an athletic, runaround quarterback as a redshirt sophomore in 2001, before a torn knee ligament ended his season at Nebraska. And how the same thing happened on the other
knee two games into the 2002 season.
Few thought he ever would play again. Those who did dared not believe he would be effective.
Count White himself among the doubters.
"I think everybody was telling him to hang it up,” Long said. "I don't know who those people were, but he was hearing it.”
That was the spring of Brent Rawls, the ballyhooed QB recruit. Rawls clearly was the superior physical quarterback. Better arm, better mobility.
White went into that spring knowing he had to prove himself worthy to retake the Sooner reins, and he sensed his moment passing.
Couldn't run. Couldn't plant stiffly. His knee was killing him.
"In my opinion, I didn't think I was playing the way I should,” White said. "I was really favoring my leg.”
So White decided to quit. He went to see his quarterback coach, the man who deserved to know first.
"He knew exactly what I was coming in there to tell him,” White said. "He seen it in my eye.”
Funny how lives can change with one simple chat. How we all have the power to impact someone who comes our way.
Long didn't go all General Patton on White, trying to shame him into toughing it out. Long also didn't commiserate with his quarterback.
"You have to find different buttons to push,” Long said.
Long found the right button.