Utah Utes football: Star running back John White IV soars into his senior season

Published: Wednesday, July 25 2012 8:15 p.m. MDT

Utah Utes running back John White IV, who grew up in the shadows of USC, looks over the stadium as the University of Utah prepares to play USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum in their first ever PAC-12 game Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, in Los Angeles, Calif. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Tom Smart, Deseret News

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — Pac-12 Media Day at Universal Studios proved to be quite a homecoming for Utah running back John White IV. The former Southern California high school and junior college star soaked it all in, gladly participating in the various events.

"This is a dream come true," White said between radio interviews. "A lot of people dream to do this and I'm doing it right now. So it's a lot of fun."

Joining teammate Star Lotulelei at the gathering of elite players in the conference was extra special for White.

"His home is just a few minutes away. He went to high school and junior college down here, so it was a natural to bring him to the media days," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Plus he obviously had such a great season for us last year. He's earned the opportunity to be involved with this."

Before breaking a 29-year-old school record by rushing for 1,519 yards in his first season with the Utes, White put up big numbers at L.A. Harbor College and South Torrance High School. Even so, nothing was handed to him at Utah.

"I came into fall camp third string and I had to work for everything," White said while noting that he remained confident throughout the process. "Now I'm representing my team. I guess it's a great stride and I'm loving it."

White added that being at Pac-12 Media Day with a player like Lotulelei is an honor and "the greatest thing in the world." It also means a lot to White's family and friends who stopped by the hotel to visit him.

"John is a family guy and he's got great parents," Whittingham said. "That's just what he's all about."

Lotulelei noted it as well.

"There's a lot of people that he surrounds himself with that really respect him and really care for him," said Lotulelei, who was White's media day roommate. "He's a really good guy."

White insists he doesn't have any individual goals on the football field. It's all about the team.

"With me going 100 percent, everything else will come. So just like last year, I never really had any goals but at the end I had a bunch of accolades," White said. "This year, I think, is going to be out of this world. A lot of people are going to make a lot of faces turn."

That could include other running backs — like highly touted junior college transfer Kelvin York — who may lighten the load White had last season with a school-record 316 carries.

"It doesn't matter to me. If someone is sharing it and scoring touchdowns, too, and contributing to the team, it's great," White said. "All we want to do is win."

White, though, is among the leaders of the pack. The "Wolfman" led the Pac-12 in total carries in 2011 and was the conference's second-leading rusher.

Aside from an ankle injury late in the Colorado game, White said he endured the work well physically. He bounced back a month later to earn MVP honors in the Sun Bowl with 115 yards rushing in Utah's 30-27 overtime win over Georgia Tech.

It has inspired White to work even harder as his senior year approaches. The Pac-12's top returning rusher is also mindful of his role as a veteran. During the main session of media day, the soft-spoken White explained his leadership style.

"I am not a leader by voice but by action and that's how I practice — 100 percent," said White, who is on the preseason watch list for the Maxwell, Doak Walker and Walter Camp awards. "Once they see that, they're just following."

White and the rest of the Utes report for camp on Aug. 1. Practices begin the next day.

Utah (8-5 overall, 4-5 in Pac-12 play last year) opens the season on Thursday, Aug. 30, at home against Northern Colorado.

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer

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