Thursday, December 30, 2004

On the way up to Culpepper Va to visit my Grandmother the day after Christmas I was shocked to hear on the radio that Reggie White had passed away. The Minister Of Defense was one of my favorite sports figures of all time. Not only for being an incredible athelete but for being a great example of Christianity. It's not every day in the world of multi-million dollar contracts, drug scandals, and other psychodrama known as proffessional sports that you see someone with the great moral character demonstrated by Reggie White on a daily basis. He worked incredibly hard and gave all the glory to God. And he was the best at what he did. Other atheletes may outlast him and Bruce Smith may have overtaken him in the all time sacks category. But nobody will argue that he was the most feared DE to ever play the game. Here's a great euolgy from ESPN:
And whether people agreed with his consistently conservative and sometimes controversial message, there was always an undeniable conviction in his words.

That conviction is what reverberates as the world mourns his passing. White died on Sunday morning at Presbyterian Hospital, also in Huntersville, at the age of 43. He is survived by his wife Sara and son Jeremy, an 18-year-old freshman at Elon University, and Jecolia, a 16-year-old junior at nearby Hopewell High School. Sara believes he died due to respiratory failure related to sleep apnea.

It was appropriate that White departed on a Sunday, the day when both of his passions -- football and faith -- are typically celebrated. His nickname was "The Minister of Defense," a hybrid tag that reflected those passions, but he was a man of many parts. Football was merely the most visible.

The bare numbers fail to do him justice. Many consider him the greatest defensive lineman to play in the NFL. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1985-92 and the Green Bay Packers from 1993-98. He was named to the NFL's 75th anniversary team and was voted to 13 consecutive Pro Bowls, a staggering accomplishment since the honor is a measure of respect from one's peers. His 198 sacks have slipped to second on the all-time list, to Bruce Smith.

It was his faith, however, that sustained him. Since his retirement, after a one-year stint with the Carolina Panthers in 2000, White, a devout Christian, attempted to deepen his understanding of religion. He had undertaken a study of Hebrew, the ancient language of the Bible.
And also:
When Reggie was 12, he told his mother and grandmother he was going to be a preacher. Five years later, at the age of 17, he became an ordained minister. At a surprisingly early age, he demonstrated an uncanny ability to hold an audience's attention.

"I remember challenging the boys," Ferguson said. "I said, 'Some of you might end up being famous people, congressmen or even the governor.' I didn't dream that one of them might have the higher platform of being a professional athlete. In the end, that helped him share his faith with so many more people."

Reggie lettered in football, basketball and track at Howard High School in Chattanooga. He was the two-sport player of the year as a senior; Patrick Ewing was the runner-up. Ridiculously fast (4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash) for his size, White matriculated to the University of Tennessee and, in 1984, the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League. He joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1985 and played there for eight seasons. In 121 games, he produced 124 sacks, something no NFL player has ever done, before or since. He joined the Green Bay Packers in 1993 and helped the proud franchise -- that had made the playoffs only twice in the previous 26 years -- win Super Bowl XXXI. White had three sacks in the 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots.
Reggie will never be forgotten.