Former Ohio State Cornerback William White Dies After Battle with ALS

By Dan Hope on July 28, 2022 at 9:40 pm
William White
Ohio State Dept. of Athletics

William White has passed away after a six-year battle with ALS.

The former Ohio State cornerback died Thursday at the age of 56 years old. The NFL’s Detroit Lions, Lima Senior High School and numerous former Ohio State players paid tribute to White on social media after learning of his passing.

“I loved William,” White’s former Ohio State and Lions teammate Chris Spielman said in a statement released by the Lions. “We shared experiences of joy and sorrow on and off the field. He was and will always be my brother.”

White played for the Buckeyes from 1984-87, starting at cornerback for four straight seasons. He earned All-Big Ten honors and was a team captain in 1987.

He went on to play in the NFL for 11 seasons with the Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons. After his football career, White returned to Ohio State and became the director of community and corporate engagement for the Ohio State College of Engineering and Alumni Association.

White was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes gradual loss of muscle function, in 2016. But he kept a positive mindset after the diagnosis, choosing to continue living his life to the fullest rather than worrying about what he couldn’t control.

“One of the things I always told my kids is things you can’t control, don’t worry about it. Things you can control, you go out there, you fight, you do all the hard work you can, to make that change, to make it right,” White told Eleven Warriors in 2018. “There’s nothing I can do to help cure this by tomorrow. There’s no need to be worried about it or get mad or anything like that. You live your life. No one’s guaranteed next year. So you live each day that you have and it will happen when it happens, but you do the work to help fight the cause.

“One phrase I’m trying to get all the doctors to stop saying is that when you’re diagnosed with ALS, 100 percent of the people die,” White continued. “Because everybody that’s born, there’s a 100 percent chance they’re going to die. So I don’t worry about that because that’s going to happen to everybody. Everybody on Earth is going to die. They should never say that. And that’s a lot of the things that causes people when they’re diagnosed with this or cancer or something like that, they always start telling them how long they’re going to live. Well, I could be going home today and get in a car accident and be dead. You never know, so you just live each day. Each day I have is a true blessing for me.”

Despite being diagnosed with a disease that has been linked to head trauma from football, White told Eleven Warriors in 2018 that he did not regret playing the sport.

“It may have something to do with it, but hey, it don’t matter,” White said. “If I knew I would have got this, I would have still played the game, because I loved it, and smacking people in the mouth was fun to me.”

White’s son, Brendon, also played for Ohio State from 2017-19 before transferring to Rutgers for his final season of college football.

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