LOS ANGELES Minutes after USC tailback LenDale White stormed off the practice field with his coaches swearing at him, he stood on the roof of a neighboring building.
“[Forget] football!” White shouted Monday night.
His teammates had just been told they didn’t need distractions like White and would continue to win without him. Then many watched in horror as equipment coordinator Tino Dominguez reached for White and missed before No. 21 fell from the roof.
Of course, the real No. 21 was flat on the roof while the dummy dressed in his uniform plummeted from a four-story science building in Trojans coach Pete Carroll’s Halloween prank for his team.
“Well done,” Carroll said when White returned to the field. “We killed them.”
Carroll has thrived at USC with planning, preparation and putting players in the right places to succeed. He used all those elements to give most of his staff and players their fright for the night.
He limited his co-conspirators to White, fellow tailback Reggie Bush, offensive line coach Pat Ruel and Dominguez, who threw a “spy” dummy off another building a few years ago. The plan came together just before practice, and the casting was appropriate.
Bush passed on the chance because he didn’t want to go on the roof. Besides, he said, “It was a lot more believable with LenDale.”
White has a bit of a reputation for surliness, and he ran with it Monday the way he does with the ball on Saturdays.
He complained to coaches about a lack of carries, said he was quitting, climbed on a cart when he left the field and hurled his gloves away to convince the reporters who followed him outside to the street.
“We had to get my teammates to really believe in it,” said White, who had thoroughly convinced some teammates who were visibly shaken after Ruel played his role and pointed to the scene on the roof.
And for any Trojans who weren’t shaken enough, free safety Scott Ware added a little scare after practice when he put his 3 -foot lizard “Croc” in a shower full of players. Then he turned off the lights.
It’s one thing when you could see him but another when it’s dark,” said Ware, who said nearly 20 players went scrambling.