PASADENA, Calif. — They will see each other again some day, maybe 20 or 30 years from now, at a picnic or a party or an alumni function. Bobby McAllister, the quarterback. Lorenzo White, the tailback. They will laugh and slap backs, remember this story and that story. And maybe, when no one is looking, Lorenzo will drop into a three-point stance and take a make- believe hand off from Bobby and do a juke here, a juke there, the way they did it back at Michigan State, the way they did it this year, they way they did it Friday, in MSU’s blank- to-blank victory/loss in the Rose Bowl, their last game together.
Here was White, taking the ball and diving, spinning, gulping yardage, dancing into the end zone, twice in the first half alone. Here was McAllister, dropping back, heaving a missile downfield, 55 yards to Andre Rison, a beautiful pass, and slapping hands with White, who two plays later took the ball in for a touchdown. The ball seemed to be their personal potato, tossed and handed and carried between the two of them. White. McAllister.
Partners in green.
The best parts of college are the memories you take away, and from the very start, when McAllister and White were placed in the same freshman dormitory room, they began building memories. There was the picture of the Heisman Trophy that White cut out and taped on their door, next to the photos of himself and McAllister.
“One of us is gonna win that some day,” White said.
There were the meals together, the consoling each other after bad practices, the nights they spent just lying around, feet dangling off their beds, talking about how “one day we’re gonna be the stars of this team.”
“That was all we talked about that year,” McAllister, laughing, said before the Rose Bowl.
White’s side of the room had the posters of the running backs. McAllister’s had the posters of the quarterbacks. When White broke into the lineup first, became a star early, gaining 172 yards in his ninth game, McAllister was there to congratulate him.
And last month, at the MSU Football Bust, when McAllister was introduced — finally the starter, finally a star — and the room exploded into standing ovation, White smiled. His buddy, too, had come of age.
“Actually,” joked McAllister about that ovation, “I didn’t know who they were clapping for. I thought Lorenzo was behind me or something.”
Lorenzo behind him. How many times in this magical MSU season had they lined up that way? How many times had McAllister slapped the football into White’s belly, or White caught a McAllister pass, or thrown a block so his quarterback could spring free? White, the tailback. McAllister, the quarterback.
Partners in green.
It wasn’t always that way. They grew up as rivals at Florida high schools, White at Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale, McAllister at Ely High in Pompano Beach a few miles north. Each had a nice legend going in his senior year. And when their two teams met at the end of the season, it was a showdown.
“We were both playing for Florida Player of the Year,” recalled White. “We kinda knew whoever had the better game would win it.”
“Yeah,” added McAllister. “I threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns. But Lorenzo ran for 340 yards and two touchdowns. And his team won, 21-20.”
He rolled his eyes.
“I don’t have to tell you who won Florida Player of the Year.”
At that time, they knew each other only as rivals. Neither was aware of the other’s intention to go to Michigan State. Neither dreamed they would be sharing the football in Pasadena four years later. White was, and is, a soft-spoken young man, powerful with a football and content to leave it that way. McAllister is more vocal, a more natural leader, quick to laugh, quick to respond to criticism. They meshed in the huddle as comfortably as they did in that freshman dormitory. “Lorenzo’s so quiet,” McAllister said, “there was never a problem with leadership. If I called a play, he did it, no questions asked. And of course, he did it great.”
White, the tailback. McAllister, the quarterback. They were nicknamed
“The Florida Connection” when they first arrived, and Friday, for the last time, the Florida Connection lined up together — this time in California sunshine — for a crack at the mountaintop, the Rose Bowl.
And this morning, it is over. College goes quickly. White, despite his on-field brilliance, fell short in his quest for the Heisman Trophy. He finished fourth. McAllister, with one year of eligibility left, jokes now that he must be “the one who wins it.”
But that is the future. This is what has passed: four years together, former rivals, now friends for life, and for all the hype and melee and screaming crowds, this, friendship, is still largely what college is all about. Twenty years from now? Thirty years from now? At that picnic, when they get together, oh, the memories they will share.
“You know,” said McAllister, eyeing his teammate, “all freshman year he had to have the window open. He loves the cold breeze. I don’t know why. He’d open the thing before he went to bed, then I’d wait ’till he was asleep and close it, then he’d wake up and open it. Then I’d wake up and close it, and .
See what we mean?