Reggie White, former all-pro defensive lineman for the Philadelphia Ealges, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers died early Sunday morning at the age of 43. The cause of death is not immediately known although White did suffer from sleep apnea which may have been a factor in his death.
White spent 15 years in the National Football League after a successful college career at Tennessee and a two year stint in the now defunct USFL with the Memphis Showboats. He was elected to 13 consecutive Pro Bowls and retired in 2000 as the NFL's all-time sack leader with 198. Twice, the 6'5' 305 pound White was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year and he was one of the few active players named to the NFL's 75th anniversary team in 1994.
In 1993, White was granted free agency and signed with the Green Bay Packers. White helped turn the Packers defense around, taking them from the 23rd ranked defense in 1992 to the league's second best unit in 1993. White was an integral part in the revitalization of the Packers franchise and helped lead the team to a Super Bowl win in 1996.
The amazing thing about White was that as good as he was as a football player, he touched so many more people off the field.
'He may have been best player I've ever seen and certainly was the best I've ever played with or against,' said Packers quarterback and former teammate Brett Favre. 'Off the field, he did so much for so many people. He really reached a lot of people. ... He was a great friend on and off the field. We'll all miss him.'
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue issued a statement saying, 'Reggie White was a gentle warrior who will be remembered as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. Equally as impressive as his achievements on the field was the positive impact he made off the field and the way he served as a positive influence on so many young people.'
White was involved in numerous off the field charities and was an ordained minister. His political beliefs occassionally got him into trouble such as a 1997 speech he made to the Wisconsin State Legislature in which he used stereotypes about minorities and made disparaging remarks about homosexuals. Still, there was never any anger or hatred behind White's words and he was always sincere about his beliefs.
White is eligible for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. For now, most people are still shocked by the sudden death of this gentle giant.
'It just seems so odd, so surreal,' said former Packers teammate Eugene Robinson. 'I'm still like, `I don't believe it.' When I saw it flash on the television — 1961 to 2004 — I was just like, `I'm not going to try to fight back any more tears. I'm just going to cry.''