A Hero Passed ... His Legacy Endures
He is universally regarded as one of, if not the greatest ever to play his position. Yet when he passed away tragically at the age of 43 this past Sunday, the consensus among commentators on Fox, CBS, ESPN, and other sports talk shows was that he was a better person than a football player. What a testimony to the life of Reggie White, certain hall of famer and one of our finest ambassadors of faith. Flawed though he was, his humility and transparency left a legacy that lives on. See for intance, the ESPN.com tribute penned by Greg Garber:
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.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated observed:
What stood out was the respect White had for his wife. Because Sarah was going to have to live and raise a family wherever he went, he wanted to make sure that she was OK with whatever decision was made. This wasn't just a husband dictating the next move to the family; there was a legitimate sense of, "I wanted to do what's best for this family." Maybe he could've done more big works in a metropolitan area. But he established a base for doing good things in Green Bay, Milwaukee, as well as his adopted hometown of Knoxville. Was the money a factor? Yes, a big one. But Reggie White put his money where his beliefs were, helping unwed mothers who couldn't afford to help themselves. ... I know there must be a river of tears in Knoxville, Philadelphia and Green Bay today. There should be great sorrow. But there should also be a feeling that the man made many lives richer in his 43 years. That's what we should remember.