Einstein would have understood Charles (Too Slow) White's problem. His speed is relative.
The Heisman trophy winner is no faster than the rest of the players when a game begins, but, like Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett, and Earl Campbell, White gets stronger as a game goes on.
When his opponents tire, White apparently does not, so he is fresher and therefore faster in the later stages of a contest. John Robinson, his coach at Southern California, says, "White is the most durable player I ever coached."
Unfortunately for White, he was drafted by a Cleveland Browns team that now is pass-oriented. Going into Sunday's game at Baltimore, the Browns were second in the American Football Conference in passing.
With the Browns winning their fifth straight game, there is no clamor in Cleveland to put an emphasis on the run-oriented defense used when Marion Motley, then Jim Brown, and then Leroy Kelly were taking the club into playoffs regularly.
Until now, the rap on White has been that he couldn't get to the outside. On Sunday, he outflanked the Colts twice on five-yard touchdown scoots and turned the corners twice on 12-yard runs as he carried the ball the most times in a game this season, 15 for 77 yards.
Coach Sam Rutigliano of the Browns said, "The only reason he had a great game was because we were able to give him an opportunity to do what he did, and what he's going to do. We have had such a flow of offense otherwise that it has been a disadvantage for White -- carrying the ball four, five, or six times a game at USC.
"He needs to carry that often to be effective. But he has grown (in his feel for the pro game) a lot. We can run the ball now with Mike Pruitt going well, Greg Pruitt healthy, and White fitting in. And they all can catch the ball."
White, who has been listed as 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds, said in the dressing room that he weighed 190 pounds. Joe Cribbs, the rookie from Auburn who has been second to Earl Campbell of Houston in rushing in the AFC, is listed at 5-11 and 190 pounds.
White appears to have overdeveloped musculature in the upper torso and in the thighs. "I'd like to play at 6-foot-8 if I could, but all I know is that a couple of years ago I stood next to Tony Dorsett (who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds) and realized he was the same size as I am," White said recently. "If he can make it, so can I. I've always faced that challenge, going into Pop Warner football, junior high, high, and college."
Have his critics expected too much of him?
"Every time a player wins the Heisman trophy, they do. I have had to adjust to the pro set (from USC's I-formation), to catch the ball and to block, but that's what I'm being paid for. It took me eight to nine years to get here."
What about assertions that he was too small and too slow to get outside?
"That makes the media happy."
Recently, White overslept, missed a team meeting, and read about it the next morning on the front page of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. He was criticized when he passed up the Senior Bowl last season and missed playing in the Hula Bowl because of a virus. He was the biggest name in college football and already appeared in five television shows, yet has to endure the role of a substitute.
A member of the Cleveland organization says of White's present problems, "Five years from now when Charles is playing in the Pro Bowl those people who didn't draft him will still be saying he is too slow, too small, and can't catch the ball."
Despite his all-America credentials and achievements in big games for Southern California, White was the 27th player selected on the first round of the draft. His prospects for sudden stardom in the pros are immensely challenging with the Browns facing a reckoning on Sunday in Pittsburgh as the Steelers seek to avenge a 27-26 loss two weeks ago.