Former Green Bay Packers DE Reggie White is one of the greatest defensive linemen in the history of the NFL. When White joined the team in 1993, the team took a big step towards becoming a Super Bowl contender. With White leading the defense, the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI against the New England Patriots and returned to the Super Bowl a year later.
Sadly, White passed away at the age of 43 in 2004. Almost two decades after his passing and 23 years after he played his final NFL game, White remains second in league history in sacks with 198.
White was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, the first year he was eligible. His number 92 was retired by the Packers, and he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame as well. White is an eight-time All Pro, a 13-time Pro Bowler and named NFL’s 75th anniversary team and 100th anniversary team.
But here are 10 things you may not know about former Green Bay Packers defensive end Reggie White:
Fact 1: Reggie White Was a Real Minister
White was known as “The Minister of Defense” but it was more than just a nickname. He was ordained as a Baptist minister while attending the University of Tennessee.
In fact, White studied the Bible extensively and even learned Biblical Hebrew to study the Old Testament in its original language.
Fact 2: Reggie White Started His Pro Football Career in the USFL
After his college career at Tennessee ended, White was selected in the 1984 USFL territorial draft by the Memphis Showboats.
White liked the idea of playing pro football near where he played in college appealed to White and he signed there before the NFL Draft.
White played two seasons in the USFL with Memphis and immediately established himself as a dominant player. He recorded 23.5 total sacks in two seasons and scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery. He was named first team All-USFL in 1985.
Fact 3: White Was the Biggest Prize in the NFL’s First Real Free Agent Class
The NFL Players Association sued the NFL on antitrust grounds to get free agency and in 1993, real free agency finally came to professional football.
Most experts felt that a small, cold weather team like Green Bay would struggle to sign free agents which could have jeopardized the future of the franchise.
White was the biggest prize on the free agent market. He said he would play wherever G-d told him to. Packers head coach Mike Holmgren called White and left a message on his answering machine saying, “Reggie, this is G-d, go play in Green Bay.”
White signed with the Packers and helped change the history of the franchise.
Fact 4: White Is the All-Time Sack Leader in Pro Football History
While Bruce Smith is the NFL’s all-time leading sack leader, if you count USFL stats, White is the all-time pro football sacks leader. White had 198 sacks in the NFL and 23.5 in the USFL. That gives him 121.5, more than Smith’s 200.
Of course, sacks were not an official NFL stat until 1982 anyway, so any season totals before that remain unofficial.
Fact 5: Super Bowl XXXI was the First Title White Won at Any Level
White played a major role in the Packers 35-21 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. He recorded three sacks which helped preserve the win in the fourth quarter.
Amazingly, the Super Bowl win was the first championship White had won at any level of football. The win was very meaningful for White, and he ran off the field carrying the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Fact 6. White Finished His career with the Carolina Panthers
While White’s time with the Packers and Philadelphia Eagles is well known, he finished his NFL career with the Carolina Panthers. White retired after the 1998 season but came out of retirement in 2000 to play one last season for Carolina.
White played in all 16 games but recorded just 5.5 sacks, forced one fumble, and recovered another. He then retired for good after the 2000 season.
Fact 7: White Still Holds the NFL Record with Nine Straight Seasons of 10 or More Sacks
White wasn’t only an elite level player he was remarkably consistent. He set an NFL record with nine straight seasons with 10 or more sacks between 1985 and 1993. During that time, he never had fewer than 11 sacks in a season and had a career-high 21 in just 12 games in the strike-shortened 1987 season.
Fact 8: White Participated in Two Pro Wrestling Events
It may not be well remembered now but White was involved in two pro wrestling events during his lifetime. He was part of WrestleMania XI in 1995 along with Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
Two years later, he faced former Bears and Packers defensive tackle Steve McMichael in a match for WCW.
Fact Nine: White Died Due to a Sleep Related Heart Condition
White died suddenly on December 26, 2004, at the age of 43 of cardiac arrhythmia. White had suffered from sleep apnea which may also have contributed to his untimely death.
White’s widow, Sara, founded the Reggie White Sleep Disorders Research and Education Foundation to help people suffering from sleep disorders.
Fact 10: White Has a Street Named After Him in Green Bay
White is one of a handful of Packers greats who have a street named after him in Green Bay. Reggie White Way is located just off Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay.
The honor speaks of the impact White had on and off the field during his NFL career.
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