Reggie White

Chad Burkholder
Packers Hall of Fame
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Reginald Howard "Reggie" White, nicknamed "The Minister of Defense" (December 19, 1961 – December 26, 2004) was a professional American football player who played defensive end for 15 seasons in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers becoming one of the most decorated players in NFL history. He also played for two seasons in the United States Football League for the Memphis Showboats. The 2-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 13-time Pro Bowl and 12-time All-Pro selection holds 2nd place all-time amongst career sack leaders with 198.5 (behind Bruce Smith's 200 career sacks) and was selected to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. During his professional career, he became famous not only for his outstanding play, but also for his Christian ministry as an ordained Evangelical minister. This led to his aforementioned nickname, "The Minister of Defense". White was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, two years after his death.
Personal life

White was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He attended Howard School of Academics and Technology during high school, and from there was recruited to play for the Tennessee Volunteers. As a professional player, he played with both USFL and NFL teams.

He was married to the former Sara Copeland, with whom he had two children, Jeremy and Jecolia.

College career

White played college football at Tennessee from 1980 to 1983, where he set school records for most sacks in a career, season and game. He still holds these records. While playing for the Volunteers, White was named an All-American. He was the SEC Player of the Year in his Senior season of 1983.

Professional career

USFL, Memphis Showboats

After college, White signed with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL. He played for Memphis for two seasons, starting in 36 games. As a member of the Showboats, he racked up 23.5 sacks, 198 tackles, and seven forced fumbles.


Philadelphia Eagles

When the USFL collapsed, White had proven himself good enough to be desired by NFL teams. He was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, who held his NFL rights. He played with the Eagles for eight seasons, during which time he picked up 124 sacks, becoming the Eagles' all-time sack leader. He also set the Eagles regular-season record with 21 sacks in a single season (1987). White also became the only player to ever accumulate twenty or more sacks in just twelve games. He also set an NFL regular-season record during 1987 by averaging the most sacks per game, with 1.75 sacks per game. Over the course of his tenure with the Eagles, White actually accumulated more sacks than the number of games that he played. He was voted by ESPN Sportsnation as the greatest player in Eagles' franchise history.

Green Bay Packers

In 1993, White became a free agent. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers, where he played for six seasons. While not quite as prolific as in his years with the Eagles, White still notched up another 68.5 sacks, to become, at the time, the Packers' all-time leader in that category (second now to Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila who has 74.5 registered sacks). White was also just as valued for his role as a team leader. He helped the Packers to two Super Bowls, including a victory in Super Bowl XXXI. That victory was the only championship White ever shared in at any level. In 1998, White was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Carolina Panthers

In 2000, he came out of a 1-year retirement and started all 16 games for the Panthers. White had 6 sacks and 1 forced fumble while with the team. He again retired at the end of the 2000 season.


After the 1998 season, White retired from professional football. However, in 2000, White was wooed back to the league by the Carolina Panthers. He played for one season as a Panther, then retired again.

At the time of his retirement, White was the NFL's all-time sacks leader with 198. (He has since been surpassed by Bruce Smith who has 200.) White also recorded three interceptions, which he returned for 79 yards. He recovered nineteen fumbles, which he returned for 137 yards and three touchdowns. His nine consecutive seasons (1985–1993) with at least ten sacks remain an NFL record. He was named an All-Pro for thirteen of his fifteen seasons, including eight as a first-team selection.

Professional wrestling

White famously appeared on screen at two professional wrestling events–wrestling one match. In April 1995 he was ringside as part of Lawrence Taylor's "All-Stars" for his match against Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania XI. During the show he participated in one backstage segment with the All-Stars, calling out Money Inc. member Irwin R. Shyster. Before and during the actual match the All-Stars and Money, Inc. teams were involved in a scuffle, which White participated in.

On May 18, 1997, White wrestled his only professional wrestling match for WCW at Slamboree. He wrestled fellow NFL (and LT's All-Star team mate) alumnus Steve McMichael. The two men emulated football tackles during their bout. White received a warm response from the professional wrestling crowd in Charlotte, North Carolina, but nonetheless lost to McMichael after being hit with a steel Zero Halliburton briefcase secretly given to McMichael by his valet (and then-real life wife) Debra McMichael.

Religious activities

In White's last year of football, a friend reportedly gave White a teaching CD from Messianic teacher Monte Judah. Following his retirement, White began studying Torah and Torah-observant Messianic theology. White also studied Hebrew under Nehemia Gordon. In October 2003, White was interviewed by Messianic teacher and televangelist Michael Rood, and he discussed his studies of Torah. The interview was broadcast on February 4 and 6, 2005, on the Sky Angel cable channel. Following White's death, the January 2005 edition of Messianic magazine Yavoh was dedicated to him as a "Messianic Believer," leading to confusion regarding White's religious beliefs. Some reported—incorrectly—that White had abandoned Christianity and was studying Judaism.[citation needed] This may have arisen because some Christians consider Messianic theology to be a form of Judaism because it holds obedience to the Torah as an expression of one's faith, and it is frequently referred to as "Messianic Judaism."

White was touched by the African American church arson scares during the mid-1990s. The Inner City Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, where White was an associate minister, burned to the ground in 1996.


White's retirement was not without controversy. He created a stir in March 1998 with his comments before the Wisconsin state legislature, invoking racial stereotypes of Latinos, Asians, whites, blacks, and Native Americans. He stated that these diverse "gifts" of each race, "formed a complete image of God [...] because He was trying to create Himself". An image that society had pushed aside, leading to the aversion of racial unity. He specified that "without assimilation there's no desegregation, nor is there integration, because people of all ethnic backgrounds have to be able to compete economically in order to build their families." 

Later, in an interview with ABC's 20/20, White made remarks about gays and lesbians. Subsequently, White became an ally of organizations opposed to homosexuality; he appeared in a newspaper advertising campaign to convince gays and lesbians that they could "cease" their homosexuality. As a result, CBS withdrew a five-year, $6 million contract for being a part of the pregame panel because of his statements calling homosexuality a sin.  Both the Green Bay Packers and the NFL objected to the ads, since White had appeared in his football uniform without the consent of the team or the league. Later versions of the ad removed the uniform.


On the morning of December 26, 2004, White was rushed from his home in Cornelius, North Carolina, to a nearby hospital in Huntersville, North Carolina, where he was pronounced dead. White had suffered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia. The most likely cause of this, according to the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office, was the cardiac and pulmonary sarcoidosis that he had lived with for years.[6][7] It was also stated that sleep apnea, which White was known to suffer from[8] may have contributed to his death.[9] His grave site is situated at Glenwood Memorial Park, Mooresville, North Carolina.


Jersey number retirements

During the 2005 season, two NFL teams retired White's number 92 jersey and one collegiate team, as well.

The University of Tennessee retired White's jersey at a halftime presentation on October 1, 2005 during their game against the University of Mississippi, the third such retirement in the modern era of football at the school; a commemorative sign was also unveiled in the south end of Neyland Stadium. On December 5, 2005, the Philadelphia Eagles retired his jersey in a halftime ceremony during the Eagles' Monday Night Football game with the Seattle Seahawks, who were coached by Mike Holmgren, White's former coach in Green Bay. During a halftime presentation at Lambeau Field on September 18, 2005, White became the fifth Green Bay Packer to have his number retired by the franchise and the first player in NFL history to have his number officially retired by multiple teams. The Packers and the Eagles also wore a helmet decal honoring White for the remaining games in the season.

White's number was retired by the University of Tennessee in 2005

White's number was retired by the Packers in 2005

Hall of Fame

White was elected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame on his first ballot on February 4, 2006. He was enshrined at a ceremony on August 5, 2006 in Canton Ohio. White's widow, Sara White, delivered her husband's acceptance speech at the ceremony. She was introduced by their son, Jeremy White, who also released the first copies of his autobiography, In His Shadow: Growing Up With Reggie White, during the Hall of Fame weekend in honor of his father. Jeremy thanked the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" in his introduction, echoing Reggie White's dedication to his faith and the evolution of White's beliefs from simple Baptist minister to a Hebraic roots believer.

Named Street

The official sign hanging for Reggie White Boulevard took place on Monday, December 8, 2008, at 2 p.m. at the intersection of 20th and Carter Street in Chattanooga, Tennessee. White’s mother, Thelma White Collier, along with other family and friends were on hand to witness the change to Reggie White Boulevard. The official name change was approved by the Chattanooga City Council on November 4, 2008.

Inducted 2006

Defensive end, Reggie White, a legitimate icon in the NFL was the final piece of the puzzle that made the Packers championship season in the 1990’s. It would not have come together without the free agent signing of Reggie White to a four year contract on April 9, 1993.

In 1992, the year before Reggie White joined the Packers, the team’s defense was ranked 23rd. With White in 1993, that same unit raised their ranking all the way to number three.

The only notable change that year was the addition of White. By 1996, the defense was ranked and would be part of a Super Bowl championship team. The following January just as the offense was reaching new heights with Brett Favre at quarterback, so too was the defense under White’s leadership.

Fritz Shurmer once called him “the cornerstone and foundation” of the Packers. The defensive coordinator of the Packers during the Mike Holmgren era was not prone to exaggeration.

White’s 15 NFL seasons included 6 in Green Bay from 1993 through 1998 and nine were with the Eagles. During his time with the Packers they made the playoffs every year, while Reggie recorded 68 of his 198 career sacks, and was an annual Pro Bowl selection. He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the year in 1998 after posting 16 sacks for 98 yards, forcing four fumbles and deflecting five passes.

He also managed 33 unassisted tackles and 12 assisted tackles that last year in Green Bay. He was placed on the reserve/retired list by the Packers on February 16, 1999, although he was subsequently terminated from the reserve/retired list in 2000 which allowed him to return to the NFL for a final season with the Carolina Panthers. Sadly, he passed away on December 26, 2004.White, whose Packers jersey was retired in 1999 was elected to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time team (1994) and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

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FILE PHOTO of Reggie White during 1997 season.
PERENNIAL PRO BOWLER:  Reggie White was named to 12 straight Pro Bowl games, including all five seasons with the Packers.
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