The death of football great Reggie White has stunned the football world. At 43, the powerful “Minister of Defense” seemed in the prime of his life. While occasionally controversial, White’s achievements both on and off the football field are certainly noteworthy.
Born December 19, 1961 in Chattanooga, TN, White played both football and basketball while attending Howard High School. He was named and All-American in both sports, and led his team to victory in the All-States in basketball. He was named Player of the Year in Chattanooga Tennessee, and was second runner up to Patrick Ewing for the best Two-Sport Player in the country his senior year.
After graduating from high school, White went on to the University of Tennessee where he continued his football career. He was selected as an All-American and SEC Player of the Year his senior year, and his record for sacks in a career, a single-season and a game still stand. In his final season, he was named a finalist for the Lombardi Award. He also played in the Hula Bowl and the Japan Bowl his senior year.
White embarked on his pro career in 1984 with the USFL’s Memphis Showboats. In 1985, he joined the Philadelphia Eagles for whom he played eight seasons. As an Eagle, he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year his first year, and remains the Eagles’ all-time sack leader.
In 1993, White joined the Green Bay Packers and helped turn the team around, raising their defense ranking from 23 to 2 in one season. He set new sack records and was selected to play on a record 14 consecutive Pro Bowls teams. He was awarded UPI NFC Defensive Player of the Year three times. He retired in 1998, only to return in 2000, signing with the Carolina Panthers where he played for one more year.
Off the field, White was an ordained, Baptist minister whose work with the underprivileged is nearly as noteworthy as his football career. Although he drew controversy for some of his strong views, he was beloved by his congregation and community.
Reggie White is survived by his wife Sara and two children, a son Jeremy, and daughter Jecolia. The cause of death has yet to be determined, but it is known that he suffered from a breathing disorder for several years. An autopsy is pending.