Q&A with Danny White

No matter the sport, anytime a player takes the place of a legend, it's only human nature for fans to compare the two. That was definitely the case for former Cowboys quarterback Danny White, who came to America's Team in 1976 but didn't become the starter until 1980, the year after the legendary Roger Staubach retired.

White had a great run as the man under center for the ‘Boys, setting a team record for touchdown passes in a season in his first year as the starter and earning a trip to the 1982 Pro Bowl. Danny quarterbacked Dallas to three straight NFC Championship Games between 1980 and 1982.

All told, he spent 13 seasons in Dallas before hanging up his spikes in 1988.

Since then, White has done some broadcasting but really found his niche in the Arena Football League. He spent 13 seasons coaching the Arizona Rattlers and won a pair of Arena Bowl titles. Danny is now in his second season coaching the AFL's Utah Blaze. The Ranch Report caught up with him from Salt Lake City and here's that exchange:

The Ranch Report: Looking back, what are your thoughts on your Cowboys career?
White: Obviously, those were great years and I wouldn't trade them for anything. I learned a lot from Coach (Tom) Landry and his great staff. Getting the chance to fulfill every kid's dream, which is to play in a Super Bowl, was also great. I have nothing but fond memories of my 13 seasons with the Cowboys.

The Ranch Report: You set a team record with 26 touchdown passes in your first season as the starter in 1980. Did you expect to have such an immediate impact?
White: It wasn't a big deal because that wasn't a function of the quarterback, it was a function of a great system. We had great receivers and great offensive linemen. It was a matter of me filling a role, a pretty big role. But all the pieces of the puzzle were there and Coach Landry ran a very quarterback-friendly kind of offense that made it easy to get completions. When you can get the ball in the hands of guys like Tony Dorsett and Drew Pearson, it doesn't matter if it's a five-yard pass play or an 80-yard pass, it has a chance to score a touchdown. It was a function of being surrounded by people like that more than anything else.

The Ranch Report: Before coming to Dallas in 1976, you spent some time in the World Football League. What was that experience like?
White: It was a step. We had some great football players like Jim Kiick, Paul Warfield and Larry Csonka. I learned a lot from Paul Warfield about route running and the passing game. He was a real pro. It was a year and a half at a higher level than college. It was maybe not at an NFL level, but it was still a good step for me. I think back that if I hadn't spent two years in the WFL, I would have been a backup in the NFL for six years. That would have been very difficult to take. I was almost getting to the end of my rope after four (years as the backup in Dallas). I was punting and playing for a great team and that made the difference. Those two years in the World Football League were good learning years for me.

"Obviously, those were great years and I wouldn't trade them for anything. I learned a lot from Coach (Tom) Landry and his great staff. Getting the chance to fulfill every kid's dream, which is to play in a Super Bowl, was also great. I have nothing but fond memories of my 13 seasons with the Cowboys."
The Ranch Report: Danny, you spent your first four seasons as Roger Staubach's backup and then became the starter in 1980. Discuss that experience.
White: Roger was a great competitor and leader. I probably learned more from him about what it takes to be a pro more than anything else. The thing that I will always be indebted to him for is that he taught me what being a pro is all about on and off the field and in the locker room. That's something that there is no substitute for. You can't buy that or go to school for it. I'll always be grateful to him for that.

The Ranch Report: What kind of impact did playing for Tom Landry have on you both on and off the field?
White: Looking back and realizing how many different coaches I could have played for, I realize how fortunate I was to play for Coach Landry. He was a great teacher. Everything that happened on the football field had an application in life. He said that football comes and goes in your life. Especially as a player, it's a short life and you had better be ready for the real world when it hits you. Coach Landry was maybe the last of the great teachers in preparing football players for life after football. He made it clear that football was a great game and that we owed everything we had to it. But he also said that there is a place for it in our lives and that we needed to keep it in perspective with everything else. The thing that I will remember about him more than anything else is that he always had his priorities straight. His happiness wasn't based on winning or losing a football game. He had deep religious beliefs and family that were important to him. That rubbed off on me more than anything.

The Ranch Report: After retiring from the NFL, you made the switch to Arena Football. Talk about your time in the AFL.
White: All I had to do was use what I had learned from Coach Landry to be successful in the AFL. I was very fortunate in Dallas that I saw what a successful team was all about. I also saw the Cowboys in decline and what happened there. I went back to the things that were successful for Coach Landry in the late 1970s and early 1980s and tried to pattern what I did in Arizona after that. It's more about how you treat people, being professional and expecting players to be professional but at the same time, having a system based on discipline and accountability. Fortunately, it worked. I found six or seven guys in Arizona who fit that mold, agreed with that philosophy and that was the key to success.

The Ranch Report: How does it feel to be honored in four different Halls of Fame (Arena Football, Arizona Sports, Arizona State University and College Football)?
White: It's the ultimate honor. It's the one thing that every athlete strives for. There are players in the Hall of Fame who never played in Super Bowls. There are guys who have played in the Super Bowl who I am sure would trade their Super Bowl ring to be in the Hall of Fame. That is something that every player that ever plays a sport sets as a goal. It's an ultimate goal. There's not much to get beyond that. That and getting a number or jersey retired are the greatest achievements a player can get. It's a great honor to be in those Halls of Fame.

The Ranch Report: Last year, you coached Utah to a playoff berth in their first season. What do you envision for year two?
White: The novelty is gone and we're no longer an expansion team. It's now about winning games. It's no longer about being the new sport in town that everybody wants to see. Sooner or later it boils down to wins and losses and that's the way it should be. That's the great thing about football is that it's live TV. You can't go back and re-do it, you have to perform when you get the chance. We have a great fan base in Utah and they came in droves last year. We didn't have an empty seat. We have to go out and win games. I fully expect this team to take it to the next level this year-to compete for the Arena Bowl championship.

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