The leading ladies in Randy White's life admit they cringe when they hear people refer to the Dallas Cowboys' All-Pro defensive tackle as "The Manaster (part man, part monster)."
"Sure it bothers me," said Laverne White, his mother. "That's my son they're talking about. He's a very gentle, warm, sentimental person, not some kind of trained killer on the football field. Sure, he's involved in the rough stuff.But he's doing his job.
"Randy is a terrific kid. He loves animals, he loves children. He calls us three times a week. He sends me flowrs. He never forgets a birthday. He's as gentle as a pussycat."
Vicci White, his bride of four months, also gets rather indignant when "people think of him as just another big brute. He's just the opposite. My husband is just a big old toddy bear, and nobody will ever tell me he's not."
The Denver Broncos, among many others, would disagree. They probably racall Randy White, the grizzly bear, as a romping, stomping terror in the 12th Super Bowl a year ago, sharing most valuable player honors with teammate Harvey Martin.
A week ago, White was as it again. Late in the first quarter, he landed on Ram running back John Cappelletti. Crunch went Cappelletti's shoulder, and poof went the Rams' dream of a Super Bowl. Oh yes, that was White's helmet quarterback Pat Haden broke his thumb against late in the third quarter. Double poof.
When White talks about those wicked hits, he seems genuinely apologetic. "It's not like I tried to hurt those guys," he said today. "But football's a rough game. I broke my left thumb myself against those guys. I'm not a dirty player. I just play as hard as I can, and whatever happens, happens."
For Randy White, it has been that way most of his life. His mother says he was always a gifted athlete as a child growing up in Wilmington, Del., and he blossomed in a brilliant four-year career at the University of Maryland.
Terrapin publicist Jack Zane recalled a game in White's freshman season, when he scored on a 29-yard touchdown run against the Virginia frosh.
White weighed 210 pounds in those days and, Zane said, "It was one of the most amazing runs I've ever seen. All 11 Virginia players had a shot at Randy, and he finally carried three of them into the end zone on his back."
In his sophomore season White began to develop into perhaps the finest football player in the history of his school. A brief chat with Coach Jerry Claiborne, then in his first year at Maryland, provided the inspiration.
"I was meeting with all the players," Claiborne recalled, "and when Randy and I talked, I asked him if he wanted to be an All-America."
"Sure, who doesn't?" White said.
"But do you know what it takes to become one?" Claiborne asked.
"Not really, coach," White said.
"I just told him he could make himself into whatever he wanted," Claiborne said. "I told him it would take running, weightlifting and total dedication. I remember Randy sitting there and saying that's what he wanted more than anything in his athletic life.
"And then he did it."
At that point, White weighed 223 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds and bench-pressed about 300 pounds. When he finished a senior year that would include consensus All-America status and an Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman, he weighed 248, ran a 4.6 and benchpressed 450 pounds.
"The game I remember best was the Tennessee game in the Liberty Bowl," said the Cowboy personnel man, Gil Brandt, who made the decision to take White as the second player in the 1975 draft.
"The guy was making tackles all over the field. If he was lined up on the left side, he'd knock people out over on the right side. The guy was just plain incredible."
Brandt also was the man who recommended that White, a down lineman at Maryland, be taught to play middle linebacker with the Cowboys.
"He was just so big, so fast, so strong, we felt he could be another dominating force, another (Dick) Butkus," Brandt said. "The problem was, we just did not have enough time to do with Randy wht Tom (Landry) had done with Sam Huff in New York.
"Say you're a Buffalo, a team that's really not gonna' go very far right now. So you take a Randy White and you say, 'Son, just go out there and play, don't worry about mistakes.' But when you're in a position where you want to go to the Super Bowl, you just can't afford that luxury."
The firs two seasons, White was used mostly in passing situations from a defensive end position, rarely playing linebacker. Before the start of the 1977 season, Landry toyed with the notion of using White at outside linebacker.
"It came down to needing him more for the pass rush and knowing he could play tackle," Landry said. "At linebacker, we were taking him out on passing downs and his forte for us had been as a pass rusher. I just didnht want him spending another season as a backup." The switch was made and White has been demolishing opposing linemen and quarterbacks ever since.
"How good is Randy?" asked his line coach, Ernie Stautner. "Put it this way. He has a chance to be the best there ever was.
"I suppose you could compare him to Bob Lilly in some ways. Lilly was stronger up on top, but Randy's faster. And Randy has something Bob didn't have -- a mean streak. What's a mean streak? Say two boxers get together and want to spar. They both agree they wonht hit each other. But then they start sparring and one guy sees an opening. Pow, he hits you with everything he's got. That's a mean streak."
The "Manster" moniker was applied during White's rookie season, by linebacker Dave Edwards and safety Charlie Waters.
"We have a tradition of giving rookies nicknames," Waters recalled, "and you usually name them from the way they look. Well, Randy just reminded us of a monster. He was so big and strong and mean, too. But I'll tell you something else. The man is a great football player, and a great person."
When friends and family talk about White away from the field, the adjectives shy, gentle, kind and retiring also accompany the description. His great joy in life, he says, is tending to a 22-acre farm he bought 15 miles from his home in Wilmington. He has serveral cows, a horse, four dogs and two cats.
"He just loves animals," his wife says.
But not all animals, as teammate Burton Lawless, White's prewife roommate, can attest.
"We had a crazy quarterback, Clint Longley, our rookie year, and one day he gave Randy a rattlesnake to keep," Lawless recalled. "Well, we got that thing home and put it in a fish tank. Randy put a screen over the top of it, then he put a board on top of that, then he piled about 50 pounds of books on top of that. There was no way that snake would get out.
"But that first night, every couple of hours Randy'd hop out of bed and make sure that snake was still there. One time, Randy was looking at it, and the thing snapped at the glass. Randy jumped about amile."
There was plenty of fussing over White today when the national media invaded the Cowboy practice field for an hour of Super Bowl interviews. White was constantly surounded by a gaggle of writers, though he later admitted, "I sure don't like that very much."
Still, he was charming enough, particularly when he talked about wrecking the car last summer that he had received as Super Bowl MVP.
"I was just daydreaming and ran right through a red light," he said, blushing ever so slightly. "The car was pretty much wrecked. I walked away."
Randy White, Manster, pussycat or teddy bear, usually does.