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White named AP's Player of the Year

NORMAN, Okla. -- Jason White spent much of the night in darkness, staring at his bedroom ceiling, his swollen right knee
slightly elevated.

It was Sept. 7, 2002, hours after Oklahoma's quarterback
crumpled to the turf against Alabama with a torn knee ligament. He
had the same injury in his other knee the year before. Unable to
sleep, he feared his career was over before it really began.

Yet White did return -- and produced a remarkable comeback. He beat out three quarterbacks for the starting job, put Oklahoma in the Bowl Championship Series title game, and was honored Wednesday as The Associated Press College Player of the Year.

"During my rehab, there were people saying that there was no way that I was going to come back or be as good as I was," said
White, the Big 12 offensive player of the year.

"That really drove me and ignited me this season."

He emerged as the nation's top-rated passer, leading the
BCS No. 1 Sooners (12-1) to a Sugar Bowl berth against BCS No. 2 LSU (12-1) on Jan. 4.

White, a Heisman Trophy finalist, received 27 votes in balloting by the panel of sports writers and broadcasters on the AP college football poll.

Pittsburgh receiver Larry Fitzgerald was second with 19 votes,
followed by Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning (3), Kansas State running back Darren Sproles (3), Michigan running back Chris Perry
(2), USC quarterback Matt Leinart (1) and USC receiver Mike
Williams (1).

The nation's top-rated passer was selected AP Player of the Year for the second straight season; Iowa's Brad Banks won in 2002. White also becomes the second OU quarterback to win in the past four years, after Josh Heupel in 2000.

White's season-ending injuries the last two years both came
without being hit. That led to questions about his durability -- not
to mention ability. In fact, many considered him the Sooners' lone
question mark coming into the season.

"I'm sure not many people had him on their All-America lists at the beginning of the season," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.

But White shined from the start. Indeed, his statistics probably
would have been gaudier if Stoops hadn't pulled him from some
lopsided games.

Robbed of much of his speed, White excelled by staying in the
pocket. He completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,744 yards, with
40 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

"He's had one of the greatest years of any quarterback ever," offensive coordinator Chuck Long said. "It's a great story for
anyone. People could learn a lot from his determination -- a lot of
guys would have given up and called it a career."

Once White decided not to quit, his recovery began with
reconstructive surgery. He then spent up to four hours a day
working out, then more hours alone at night watching game tapes on
a VCR he borrowed from the football office.

"It's pretty lonely," White said.

In one national publication, an opposing coach was quoted as
saying Oklahoma had "recruited past White." White clipped that
out and taped it onto a bedroom wall.

His first big encouragement came last summer when Stoops ended a four-way competition by announcing White would start.

Now the native of Tuttle, Okla., a small town about a 30-minute
drive from Norman, made the decision look brilliant.

"His emergence as a great, great football player is the story
of college football," Stoops said. "The biggest difference in our
team is that Jason White is the quarterback. It ought to be pretty
obvious."