Ed White was a game-changer on the offensive line during his seventeen-year career in the NFL from 1969 to 1986.
With White at the guard position, the Minnesota Vikings enjoyed their finest stretch in franchise history in the 1970s. They played in four Super Bowl games during the memorable Bud Grant era.
White promptly picked up where he left off after the Vikings traded him to the San Diego Chargers in 1978.
He protected quarterback Dan Fouts and earned his fourth Second-Team All-Pro and fourth Pro Bowl selection with the Chargers in 1979.
With White anchoring San Diego’s staunch offensive line, the Chargers’ popular “Air Coryell” offense overwhelmed the opposition.
Truly, Ed White was the gold standard of offensive linemen during his heyday.
Edward Alvin “Ed” White was born in La Mesa, CA on April 4, 1947. He grew up in nearby Lemon Grove, CA.
White’s father launched a construction business to help make ends meet.
As for Ed, his passion for art began at an early age. He entered an art scholarship contest when he was six years old in 1953. The organizers asked contestants to draw an image of a horse featured in a magazine ad.
To Ed White’s dismay, they rejected his entry because they thought he traced it. White told The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Ernie Cowan in September 2022 that he had not traced the image.
Fortunately, that did not dissuade Ed White from pursuing art and turning it into a thriving career after he hung up his football cleats in 1986.
According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Chris Cobbs, the thought of becoming a pro football player first entered White’s mind when he played tackle football with his friends on a lawn just across Lemon Grove Junior High School.
White and his family made the one-hour drive to Julian, CA from the time Ed was born until his high school days. It was their regular family escape. They loved camping or going to the beach during Ed’s formative years in Southern California.
— Desert Sun Sports (@DesertSunSports) November 7, 2015
Ed White spent the first half of his freshman year in high school at Helix High School in San Diego, CA.
A New School
White then transferred to Indio High School in the fall of 1962. He met his future wife, Joan, during their high school days.
Ed White played tight end and fullback for the Indio Rajahs. Before long, White, who wore No. 40, became an offensive lineman. He would eventually become a Pro Bowl offensive guard in the National Football League several years later.
White’s outstanding play on the Rajahs’ offensive line earned him a football scholarship at the University of California at Berkeley.
Ed White eventually made a huge impact on the defensive side of the ball when he suited up for the California Golden Bears in the next phase of his gridiron journey.
College Days with the California Golden Bears
Ed White attended the University of California at Berkeley from 1966 to 1968. White’s fascination with nature inspired him to major in landscape architecture.
Ed White played defensive tackle for California Golden Bears head football coach Ray Willsey. It was a drastic change for White, who was an offensive lineman in high school.
Nonetheless, White exceeded expectations on the defensive side of the ball. He eventually earned Consensus All-American honors at the end of the 1968 NCAA season.
White’s personal life was also looking up. He married his high school sweetheart Joan that same year.
The Golden Bears struggled during the better part of the 1960s. They had not had a winning record since they went 7-4 in 1958.
Last night, former Cal football player Ed White was inducted into Mike Ditka’s @Gridiron_Greats Hall of Fame in Las Vegas!
Congrats Ed! pic.twitter.com/8S5eOErDjf
— Cal Football (@CalFootball) May 26, 2018
It wasn’t until the 1968 NCAA season—White’s last in the college football ranks—when the Golden Bears turned the corner.
Behind a ferocious defense anchored by White, Irby Augustine, Jerry Woods, Mike McCaffrey, and Ken Wiedemann, the Golden Bears went 7-3-1 that year.
Ed White was so good, he commanded a double team on virtually every possession.
“He could dominate an entire offense, and he was a smart player,” Willsey told the San Francisco Chronicle‘s David Bush in December 2004. “We moved him up and down the line.”
Despite White’s best efforts, the Golden Bears failed to end their ten-year bowl drought in 1968.
After White helped California establish its best record since 1958, he embarked on a legendary seventeen-year career in the NFL.
Pro Football Career
The Minnesota Vikings made Ed White the 39th overall selection of the 1969 NFL Draft.
According to the Los Angeles Times, White received a signing bonus of $15,000.
Prior to the draft, Vikings director of player personnel Jerry Reichow thought White had the makings of a Pro Bowl defensive tackle.
However, Minnesota’s starting defensive line in 1969 already featured Pro Bowlers Gary Larsen, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, and Alan Page.
For his part, White implored Vikings head coach Bud Grant to let him play defense.
After all, it wasn’t uncharted territory for White, who had been a defensive lineman during his college days with the California Golden Bears.
White’s conundrum coincided with the Vikings’ lack of depth at the guard spot.
“We were looking for a guard,” Reichow told Viking Update writer Tom Speicher (via ZoneCoverage.com’s Arif Hasan). “I had seen him play for a couple of years and really liked him. Some scouts and I thought he could play guard. He had brutal, unbelievable strength.”
Grant assigned White to the left guard spot. He continued playing that position until 1974.
White went on to help protect three quarterbacks—Joe Kapp, Gary Cuozzo, and Fran Tarkenton—during his nine-year tenure in Minnesota from 1969 to 1977.
White also helped open up lanes for running backs Dave Osborn, Clint Jones, Oscar Reed, and Chuck Foreman during that nine-year time frame.
Minnesota was a perennial Super Bowl contender that averaged ten wins per season with Ed White at left guard from 1969 to 1974.
Even More Success at a New Position
After playing left guard for the Vikings in his first six pro football seasons, White switched to the right guard position in 1975.
It was a change that paid huge dividends for Ed White. After earning the first of his four career Second-Team All-Pro selections in 1974, White earned the first of his three straight Pro Bowl selections in 1975.
— Ken Crippen (@KenCrippen) November 5, 2019
White upped the ante during his memorable Pro Bowl run. White, who tipped the scales at 288 pounds prior to the 1976 NFL season, went on a fruit juice fast five days weekly. He resumed eating clean on weekends.
A slimmer Ed White reported for training camp at 260 pounds. He told Sports Illustrated‘s J.D. Reed in February 1977 that he was quicker than he ever had been on the gridiron.
The Vikings were a perennial Super Bowl contender in the 1970s. They averaged ten wins per season and made eight postseason appearances in Ed White’s nine years with the team.
The Vikings also reached the Super Bowl four times with Ed White in tow from 1969 to 1977. Unfortunately, they lost all of them.
Minnesota has not played in the Super Bowl since the 1976 NFL season—White’s eighth with the Vikings.
During White’s playing days in Minnesota, his preference for rural settings had stayed with him since his childhood days on the West Coast.
Home to California
White lived in rural Rosemont, MN where he could go hunting in the woods in his free time.
That ended when the Vikings traded him to his hometown San Diego Chargers prior to the 1978 NFL season.
Vikings guard Ed White once demonstrated that he wasn’t as strong as a drop of glue, so Minnesota traded him* a few months later.
The 1970s NFL was a rough business. pic.twitter.com/2yjRHz6nrU
— Aaron James (@SportsCobwebs) October 31, 2020
Shortly after Ed White returned to his old stomping grounds in the San Diego area in 1978, he and his wife purchased property in Julian, CA where they planned to build a new house, per Cobbs.
Unfortunately, they struggled to come to terms with their dream house for the next several years.
When they stumbled upon Oak Lake Ranch which had an altitude of 5,000 feet, they traded their Julian, CA property for it and relocated there.
Ed White made quite an impression on Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts and tight end Pat Curran in training camp in 1978.
The three men had a few beers and sat by the poolside of the Torrey Pines golf course after a scrimmage. Curran bet Fouts and White $20 that their new right guard would not jump into the pool.
After Fouts and White exchanged glances, Curran took out a $20 bill from his wallet. White shook off the fatigue from an entire day of practice, stripped down to his shorts, and dove into the pool.
Consequently, Pat Curran was $20 poorer that day.
Not Done Yet
White was far from washed up when he entered his fifteenth pro football season in 1983.
He continued playing at a high level protecting quarterback Dan Fouts and opening up running lanes for Chuck Muncie, Earnest Jackson, and Lionel James.
White earned his fourth Second-Team All-Pro and fourth Pro Bowl selection in his second season with the Chargers in 1979.
When Don Coryell took over the reins from Tommy Prothro in 1978, the Chargers ran their opponents to the ground with the famous “Air Coryell” offense which placed heavy emphasis on the passing game.
Not only did the Chargers end their frustrating thirteen-year postseason drought, but they also made four straight post-season playoff appearances from 1979 to 1982.
They never made it past the AFC Championship Game during that memorable stretch in franchise history.
— Paul Howard (@PaulHoward_IMIT) May 12, 2021
Regrettably, the Chargers sputtered in the last three years of the Don Coryell era. They averaged seven wins per year and missed the postseason from 1983 to 1985.
Nevertheless, the Chargers voted Ed White their Offensive Lineman of the Year during that three-year time frame.
San Diego’s offensive line in the mid-1980s was so formidable, the team allowed the second-fewest sacks in the NFL. Only the Miami Dolphins allowed fewer sacks during that pro football era.
Ed White was one of the reasons behind the Chargers’ impenetrable O-line.
Surgery and Contemplating Retirement
White underwent right knee surgery as his seventeenth and final NFL season in 1985 wound down.
He injured his knee after he tried to make a cut during a game. His surgeon had to scrape and grind the bone in order to facilitate healing.
The surgeon also had to bore a hole through the bone so it bled and encouraged damaged cartilage to regenerate.
White used crutches for the next month. He seriously pondered his future at an altitude of more than 5,000 feet in his Oak Lake Ranch, per the Los Angeles Times.
It was the perfect getaway for White, who loved to kick back, relax, and unwind whenever he could.
Dan Fouts, the Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback White helped protect from oncoming pass rushers from 1978 to 1975, aptly summed up his teammate’s nature.
“Let’s be honest,” Fouts told Cobbs in the spring of 1986. “Ed White has moments of tremendous laziness. He calls himself the ‘couch potato,’ and I think that’s fitting.”
Fouts and White, who forged a lifelong friendship during their time with the Chargers, rode boogie boards and body surfed during their playing days in Southern California.
Dan hit it off with Ed because he reminded him of his friends who grew up with him in the Bay Area. Ever since Fouts met White, he knew him as a laid-back personality who never took himself too seriously.
Whenever Fouts needed a good laugh, he rang up White. Fouts referred to him as his “director of entertainment,” per the Los Angeles Times.
White had a propensity for comedic moments even if they were not intentional. He once charged onto the Jack Murphy Stadium field wearing his Chargers uniform backward.
The Soul of an Artist
Ed White showed an artistic side whenever he was away from the gridiron. He made a bronze statuette he called “The Hit Man” during his pro football career.
Although the statuette was no bigger than a normal-sized palm, White put a lot of effort and detail into it.
“The Hit Man” featured a defensive player tackling his offensive counterpart from behind. White left out the latter’s left foot and lower right leg and included a pool of blood at the bottom of the sculpture.
He did those because he wanted his statuette to capture the violent nature of America’s Game.
“I was just trying to express a feeling about this game,” White told the Los Angeles Times in 1986. “I have sometimes felt like my ribs were going to come through my body. So, in my mind, this piece is successful in expressing a feeling.”
67 Days until the NFL regular season kicks off! 🏈
— Ultimate Autographs (@Ultimategraphs) June 30, 2019
Player and Coach
White, who went on a juice fast and lost almost 30 pounds when he played for the Minnesota Vikings in 1976, decided to beef up as his tenure with the Chargers progressed.
He told Cobbs in 1986 that his typical playing weight of 285 pounds did not compromise his quickness. His larger frame also held off the league’s best pass rushers.
Ed White also defied Father Time and held his own against younger defensive linemen well into his late 30s. He earned a respectable $350,000 per year as his pro football career wound down.
It became increasingly evident White had the makings of a good football coach at that point in his memorable gridiron career.
One day in the 1985 NFL season, White reported for practice early and dragged a pair of dilapidated tires onto the football field.
White explained to the coaches those tires would help improve his and his teammates’ knee mobility.
Ed then sat next to the Chargers coaching staff, drew up a passing scheme inspired by Don Coryell’s “passing tree,” and helped organize the scrimmage down to the last minute.
When White’s Chargers teammates arrived, he led stretching exercises. He encouraged them to focus on their muscles while they were stretching them out.
Once they wrapped up their stretching routine, White demonstrated the correct hitting stance from a squatting position.
Ed White retired from the National Football League at the end of the 1985 NFL season.
White considered Don Coryell, Bud Grant, Dave Levy, and Jim Hanifan the best coaches he worked with in his seventeen-year pro football career, per the California Golden Bears’ official athletics website.
Ed White and his wife Joan have been married for 54 years. They currently reside in the San Diego, CA area. The couple has two sons: Timmy and Randy.
Joan comes from a family of teachers. She is a schoolteacher herself. Her father taught chemistry for 20 years at Ed’s alma mater, Indio High School.
When he stepped down as the school’s science department head, his daughter Linda Davidson took over.
Ed White became a football coach after he retired from the National Football League in 1986. He had stints with the San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles/St Louis Rams, California Golden Bears, and San Diego State Aztecs until his retirement from the coaching profession in 2004.
White imparted his football knowledge to future starting NFL offensive linemen Kyle Turley and Ephraim Salaam during his tenure as the Aztecs’ offensive line coach from 1994 to 1997.
— Bally Sports San Diego (@BallySportsSD) September 11, 2018
Sadly, White’s daughter Amy passed away due to pneumonia after she sustained a serious head injury in 1997.
White and his family went through some turbulent times in subsequent years.
The large Cedar Fire engulfed their Julian, CA residence in 2003. Ed White’s doctors then diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s-related dementia in the spring of 2018.
“After all that head-knocking, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” White told The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Nick Canepa in June 2018.
White sometimes has trouble remembering dates. Although he feels his age on the outside, he still feels like an 18-year-old adolescent on the inside.
Still an Artist
White, who has been serving as the Oak Lake Art Center’s executive director since 1992, tries to compensate for his memory lapses through his art.
He does paintings inside his house and designs bronze sculptures for the SDSU Athletics Hall of Fame, the University of San Diego Athletics Hall of Fame, San Diego Entertainer of the Year, the John Madden All-Pro Team, and the Hall of Champions Ernie Wright Award.
Although White does sell some of his paintings, that is not his main intention.
“I don’t paint to sell,” White told The San Diego Union-Tribune in the fall of 2022. “I just paint because I was blessed with a gift.”
Advocate for Brain Trauma
Ed White included his art portfolio on his own art website. He also collaborates with the Kind Warriors Project, a non-profit organization that assists military veterans and former NFL players with serious brain issues.
White also told Canepa he had several concussions and a broken neck during his pro football career from 1969 to 1985.
White attended a reunion with his Minnesota Vikings teammate four years before his diagnosis. He remembered most of them also had health issues during retirement.
One of his fellow Vikings offensive linemen, Keith Fahnhorst, passed away due to Alzheimer’s disease in 2018.
Ed White experienced another health scare in the spring of 2019.
White had breathing issues during a Mexican cruise he and his wife Joan took for her birthday.
He checked into a hospital in Mexico for a few days. He then flew back to San Diego where doctors discovered he had aortic stenosis—a condition where the heart’s aortic valve narrows and consequently reduces blood flow.
White underwent a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure in September 2019. His new heart valve improved his condition drastically.
Since then, White has tried to boost his health by paying attention to his diet, hiking, and swimming. He told Canepa he follows the Mediterranean Diet. He also eliminated meat and sugar from his meals.
Ed White entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
White is also a member of the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, the Minnesota Vikings 25th Anniversary Team, the Minnesota Vikings 40th Anniversary Team, the Minnesota Vikings 50th Anniversary Team, the San Diego Chargers 40th Anniversary Team, the San Diego Chargers 50th Anniversary Team, and the Los Angeles Chargers Hall of Fame.
Although White has not been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet, it is something that does not weigh heavily on his mind.
“The Hall of Fame would be an honor, but it’s not something I think about,” White told the Los Angeles Times in 1986.
The Indio Rajahs, Ed White’s high school football team, retired his No. 40 jersey in October 2022. The team previously renamed its football stadium in his honor.
White’s favorite book is Robert Shea’s Shike. His all-time favorite movie is The Pink Panther, per CalBears.com.