Buddy Ryan called White one of the best players -- and friends --
anyone could have. And Keith Jackson always remained awed by
White's dedication to God.
"But let's not forget, he could play some football," Jackson
White played defensive end about as well as anyone in NFL
history, and on Monday night he earned one final, fitting tribute
from the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles retired White's No. 92 before their game against the
Seattle Seahawks at Lincoln Financial Field, the seventh player in
franchise history to earn the honor.
White's daughter, Jecolia, sang the national anthem. The Eagles
unveiled a banner in White's honor and there was a video tribute as
the crowd chanted ``Reg-gie! Reg-gie!'' during a halftime ceremony.
The banner had White in his playing days on the top, and a smiling
picture of White on the bottom, with "Reggie 92" in the middle.
The Eagles also painted "Reggie 92" on each sideline.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he made a promise to White that
the team would retire No. 92 on Monday Night Football so the entire
country could see it.
"We wanted this tribute to be a lasting one," Lurie said.
The number retirement seemed especially fitting against the
Seahawks since coach Mike Holmgren won a Super Bowl with White in
White, who suffered from sleep apnea and sarcoidosis, died last
year in Cornelius, N.C., at age 43.
"He was hungry and thirsty for truth in his life," said
Cunningham, the former Eagles QB. "That was the point God said,
'Come on up here with me, son."'
White played 15 seasons with Philadelphia, Green Bay and
Carolina. He retired after the 2000 season as the NFL's career
sacks leader with 198, a mark that was subsequently passed by Bruce Smith.
White is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The
class of 2006 will be determined at the selection committee's
annual meeting Feb. 4 in Detroit.
Jackson said there was more to White than the way he put fear
into quarterbacks, and that's what those who were close to him
would remember most.
"It's not his accolades on the football field, but the type of
person he was. The type of man he was," Jackson said.
A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and ordained
minister who was known as the "Minister of Defense," White was
elected to the Pro Bowl a record 13 straight times from 1986-98.
"He was the master of being prepared in the season and in the
offseason," Cunningham said.
Cunningham, Jackson, Clyde Simmons and Keith Byars were among
nearly two dozen former Eagles who returned for the unveiling of
White's No. 92 next to the No. 99 of former teammate Jerome Brown,
who died in an auto accident while still active.
The other six Eagles who had their numbers retired are Steve Van
Buren, Al Wistert, Chuck Bednarik, Tom Brookshier, and Pete
White's widow, Sara, was touched at how so many of his friends
came to remember him.
"His spirit will be with us forever and ever and ever," she
After an All-American senior season at Tennessee, White began
his pro career with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL in 1984. He
joined the Philadelphia Eagles, who held his NFL rights, after the
USFL folded in 1985. For eight years he was as an integral piece in
Philadelphia's "Gang Green Defense."
White combined size, speed and strength like no defensive
lineman before him, recording a league-high 21 sacks in only 12
games in the strike-shortened 1987 season. He remains the Eagles
career leader in sacks with 124 in 121 games and his seven
consecutive Pro Bowl selections are a team record.
"He's probably the best defensive lineman that ever played,"
said Ryan, who coached the Eagles from 1986-1990.
White played a key role in free agency -- he was one of the
plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the current system.
White signed as a free agent with Green Bay in 1993 for $17
million over four years. His signing, along with a trade for Brett
Favre, helped make the Packers champions again. He was the first
major black player to sign with the Packers as a free agent.
He also had his No. 92 retired by the Packers.
White became an ordained Baptist minister at 17, earning him the
nickname "The Minister of Defense." He was fond of saying God
told him to go to Green Bay in 1993 to sack both sin and
quarterbacks, and worked tirelessly in the offseason with
"He was a loyal friend," Ryan said. "He and I were friends as
well as coach and player. You just don't think of that happening."