Athlete#039;s death shocks everyone

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2005

Sunday morning, Fox News and ESPN both reported that NFL legend Reggie White had passed away while sleeping in his North Carolina home due to a lung problem that caused cardiac arrest.

My truest condolences go out to his family and to his children, one of whom is enrolled at Elon College and the other is in junior high school.

They have an understanding of what a great man their father was. But they, along with the rest of the people who were fans and admired White will have no idea what type of man he was going to be.

Reggie White was a consummate professional and truly became the master of his position on the football field.

No one wanted to line up against him or wanted to run into him.

Not only on the field was he a great man, but he was an equally great one off it.

White was an ordained Baptist minister, which led him to his moniker as the "The Minister of Defense."

That was a title he lived up to as he made 13 straight Pro Bowl appearances and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors twice.

On the field, whenever someone was injured, you would see White kneeling with not only players from his team but those from the opposing team, all joined in a group prayer for the injured player.

White was released from the Philadelphia Eagles following the 1992 season and was quickly picked up by the Green Bay Packers where he played until his first retirement.

While in a packers uniform White set the all-time sack record, a record that has since been surpassed by Bruce Smith.

White also became the first African-American free agent to be signed by the Packers' organization.

The Packers worked their way to a Super Bowl Championship four seasons after White joined the organization.

Following their championship and return to the "frozen tundra," White had the opportunity to speak to the Wisconsin Senate.

It was during that speech that White received the only form of negative publicity that he had ever received throughout his career. During his senatorial speech, White made disparaging statements regarding homosexuals and single mothers and backed it up with Biblical quotes to tie into his ministerial background.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't admire the man for what he said.

By no means.

But, what I do admire is that White stood behind his words and his beliefs.

Never refusing to back down because they offended someone.

White played with the Packers from 1993-1999 and then retired for the first time.

His retirement didn't last long as he was picked up by the Carolina Panthers and played his final season in the NFL as a member of the expansion franchise.

On Sportscenter Monday morning anchor Scott Van Pelt said that Andy Sherman, coach of the Packers and Bob Harlen, President of the Green Bay franchise had met and discussed retiring White's number.

The green jersey with the number 92 on it has not been worn by a member of the Green Bay organization since White's career with the Packers came to an end.

They decided they were going to honor him by retiring it in 2005.

It's unfair that they are going to have to do it posthumously.

With Whiteis passing, I started thinking.

A moment of silence should be taken for those whose lights were extinguished too early and for those whose flame burned until completion as we near the conclusion of 2004..

It's that simple.

Griffin Pritchard is the Sports Editor of the Greenville Advocate. He can be reached by phone at 382-3111 or via email: