Tennessee Vols Legend Reggie White

Tennessee Vols Legend Reggie White

December 26, 2019

Who Is Reggie White?


Every Vol fan has heard about Tennessee legend Reggie White, and my parents actually had the opportunity to watch him play live at Neyland when he was a Vol.  For the rest of you , I want to share with you a behind the scenes look at Vols legend Reggie White.

Fan of pro football? Then you already know all about Reggie White. Those that don't, one thing we take pride in here at Rocky Top Gifts is sharing the history of Tennessee sports for the next generation. 

When most Vols fans think of  Reggie they think how large a man he is. He is known by his unbelievable stature because he stands at 6 feet 5 inches and 300 pounds. Others know him for his time playing for the University of Tennessee or his time in the NFL, but everyone agrees that he has had a fantastic career. 

 Reggie was born in 1961 on December 19, and his birth name is Reginald Howard White.  His mother and grandparents raised him, and his family was deeply religious and attended the local Baptist church on a regular basis.

Reggie was inspired by the ministers he met there. He is recognized as an All-American, though when he was younger, football wasn't the only career choice he had in mind. Born in Chattanooga Tennessee, he started his football career early and told his mother at age twelve that he wanted to be two things when he grew up. A minister and a football player.


As such, he began playing football in high school. His coach was Robert Pulliam, who was a former player for Tennessee. While he loved football, he did make his other dream come true as well when he became an ordained minister at the young age of just 17. He also chose to play basketball during that time and received, all states honors while in high school.


Becoming exceptional in both sports, his senior year in high school, he had over 80 solo tackles, and over 130 takes overall. He also had almost a dozen sacks, and because of these accomplishments, he received All-American honors. He was also rated as the number one recruit in Tennessee by the local Knoxville paper, the Knoxville News Sentinel.


When he entered college, he played for the University of Tennessee for three years and worked his way up and into the starting lineup in his first year. In his first year alone, he earned 32 solo tackles, as well as recovering fumbles and two sacks. He even blocked a punt that helped the team score in the win that they achieved over Georgia Tech. After earning the Andy Spiva Award, he began his sophomore year. 


As a sophomore, he only got better earning 61 solo tackles, eight sacks, and seven tackles for loss! Using his exemplary skills, he also blocked extra-point attempts and earned him the title of outstanding defensive player for his team during the game that one of his blocks resulted in a safety. His sophomore year was a busy time because he was also named the Southeast Lineman of the Week by UPI and named the best defensive player as well. At the end of that season he gained one more title — the Sophomore All-American team by Football News.  


Unfortunately, his performance hindered in the season of 1982. He was named a preseason All-American, but he had an ankle injury that continued to flare up, and it caused notable pain and issues for the great player. Nonetheless, he was still able to shine and prove that he could be exceptional. Despite his ankle injury., he achieved 36 solo tackles and led the Vols with  seven sacks.

Reggie What was credited with eight tackles in a single game during his junior year with the TN. Vols, However, he was disappointed with his over all performance for the year and promised himself in his senior year with the Vols would be one that Tennessee Volunteer fans never forget.

Oh what a senior year Reggie White had for the Tennessee Vols.  He skyrocketed in his senior year to 72 solo tackles and 15 sacks, (which broke a Vols record for a single season) and Reggie achieved nine tackles for loss. Reggie was able to keep their rivals offense at bay and continued to break individual and team records at Tennessee.

Tennessee fans will remember Reggie knocking  Boomer Esiason out of the game they were playing in just the second quarter. Because of his performance in this season surpassing all of his others, he was named the All-American SEC player of the year and was a Lombardi Award Finalist. 


College was just the start of his success. After college, he spent two seasons in the USFL. He was scooped up by the Memphis Showboats and was given a chance to play football professionally. He did well on the team and started in 3 dozen games and achieved over 20 sacks. The USFL collapsed in 1985, and the Philadelphia Eagles acquired him in the NFL draft. When he signed with the Eagles, they had him sign a four-year contract for 1.85 million dollars, and they also bought out the remaining years on his Memphis contract.


He missed the few games of the season but quickly made up for it when he did start and was named soon after as defensive rookie of the year. 1985 was a busy year for him not just because of his success with football, but it was also the year he married his soul mate Sara. They remained married for 19 years until he passed away. He had two children with Sara. A daughter named Jecholia and a son named Jeremy. 



He played for the Eagles for eight years, and he was able to play in over 121 games and achieve 124 sacks. He was the Eagles all-time sack leader and set the season record with over 20 sacks in a single season. The interesting thing to note in this case is that Reggie achieved more sacks than the games he played. Because of this, ESPN voting him as the greatest player in Eagle's history. In 1991, he also set the record for most passes defended in just one season. This record has broken since then.


In 1992 Reggie White was considered to be the most influential member of a group of players from the NFL that we're able to successfully able to sue the league because they violated antitrust laws in regards to its limited free agency system. When they won, the NFL instituted free agency for the first time and in full. When this happened, Reggie became one of the most wanted and desired played in the NFL. He chose to sign with the Green Bay Packers. Reggie agreed to a contract of four years for 17 million dollars. However, he ended up staying with them for six seasons instead.


Mr. White was victorious in his new team, and with his help, they made it to their first Superbowl in almost 30 years. In the category of sacking, he became the Packers all-time leader in that category, though this has been broken twice since then. In 1997 Reggie shocked his fans by wrestling in his only ever professional wrestling match for WCW at Slamboree, and his opponent was Steve McMichael. After being hit with a steel briefcase, however, he lost. 



He was considered a great team leader and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1998. After he retired from the Green Bay Packers, he took a year off from playing football. When he came back, however, he played for the Panthers of Carolina before retiring for good at the end of the season, though he had found success with this team as well. By the time he had finished playing football he had been named All-pro for 13 of his seasons


Being a religious man, he also became involved in the Fellowship of Christian athletes while in college, and he expressed wanting to be an evangelist. He starred in the film Reggie's prayer, which was a Christian film, and it was because the arson happenings of 1996 affected him deeply. Later on in his life, he began to study other religions instead of just Christianity.



Reggie White, unfortunately, had suffered from what is known as sarcoidosis, which doesn't have a known origin. It is characterized by formations of lesions that are granulomatous. They appear most often in the lymph nodes, lungs, skin, and liver. That disease is said to be a  possible contributor to Reggie's death. On the morning of December 26, 2004, Sara had called 911, and Reggie was taken to the hospital in Huntersville, North Carolina. He was, unfortunately, pronounced dead. They cited the reason to be a cardiac arrhythmia. He was known to suffer from sleep apnea, which is also believed to be a factor in his death.


This article appeared in the NY Times after Reggie's Death

Mourners Pay Last Respects to White

They came by the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, to say goodbye to Reggie White, the National Football League great who died unexpectedly on Sunday. A public viewing of White's open coffin was held Wednesday at A.L. Jinwright Funeral Service, and a line of people seeking to pay their final respects stretched along the main road and down a side street. It also drew television crews from Green Bay, Wis., Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Knoxville, Tenn.

A worker at the funeral home tried to keep a tally of the visitors but lost count after the first half-hour of the five-hour visitation. The police had told funeral home staff to expect 5,000 to 8,000 people.

Among them was Keith Onque, 36, of Danville, Va., who was first in line at 12:30 p.m. for the viewing beginning at 3.

"I've been a big fan of Reggie White ever since he went to college in Tennessee," Onque said. "Ambassador on the field and off the field. He was such a God-fearing man, and he deserved the honor and respect for us to come out here and to say farewell, and I love him."

White, 43, who was the N.F.L.'s career leader in sacks when he retired in 2000 and was widely considered one of the best defensive ends to play the game, died Sunday morning. A preliminary report from the Mecklenburg County medical examiner's office showed that a respiratory disease called sarcoidosis had caused a fatal heart attack, with sleep apnea possibly a factor.

A private funeral will be held Thursday for family and friends. Among those expected to attend are a contingent from the Packers, including quarterback Brett Favre; the Eagles' owner, Jeffrey Lurie, leading a group from Philadelphia; and members of the Carolina Panthers. White played for all three teams during his 15-year N.F.L. career.

Some of White's relatives attended Wednesday's viewing. A family friend, Shawn White, issued a statement. It read in part: "Reggie lived the essence and the spirit of life by faith. The entire family and our extended families have cherished and will continue to cherish every moment and memory of him. Thank you all for your love and for your thoughtful prayers."

Among the mourners was a former University of Tennessee teammate of White's, Bill Bates, a longtime safety for the Dallas Cowboys.

"It was fun for me to watch him mature," Bates said of their time at Tennessee. "When he first came there, he was so raw and young. To see the raw strength was incredible."

Bates joined a Tennessee contingent that flew in on Wednesday and included Mike Hamilton, the athletic director, and Vicky Fulmer, wife of the football coach, Phillip Fulmer. The team is in Dallas preparing for the Cotton Bowl on Saturday.

"He was very lovable, very humble," said Vicky Fulmer, who was a Tennessee student at the same time as White. "He played with intensity; that's what I remember most about Reggie on the field. Off the field, he was just a great Christian example for all of us."

White's impact went beyond the N.F.L. He had joined with Joe Gibbs, his neighbor in Lake Norman, north of Charlotte, to form a Nascar race team that competed in the lower-level Dodge Series. The plan was to develop minority talent and eventually move up, perhaps to Nextel Cup competition.

J.D. Gibbs, who runs Joe Gibbs Racing for his father, who is in his second tour as coach of the Washington Redskins, attended Wednesday's viewing.

"It was nice to finally team up with him like we did on the Nascar side in our diversity efforts," Gibbs said of White. "Just had a great heart."

He added, "We were really looking forward to doing a lot with him for diversity, but just watch him become a part of our sport and Nascar."

Many of those at the funeral home stopped to sign placards, some offering a simple "God bless" and others quoting the Bible to honor White, an ordained minister.

The center of one placard simply said, "God's Hall of Fame."

 After he died, the Packers, Eagles, and University of Tennessee all retired his number 92 jersey. For the remaining games of the season, the Eagles and Packers also wore helmet decals honoring him. Reggie White was also posthumously elected to the Professional Football Hall Of Fame in the year 2006.  In 2005 he was enshrined at a ceremony where his wife gave her husband's acceptance speech, and Jeremy released copies of his autobiography.



He was elected to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. Chattanooga wanted to honor their fallen hero as well and named a street after him in 2008, and his family and friends were all there to watch. He also has a road in Green Bay, Wisconsin, named after him.


After he died and they buried him in Glenwood Memorial Park, in Mooresville North Carolina, his wife Sara founded (with the Sleep Wellness Institute) Reggie White Sleep Disorders Research and Education Foundation. She founded it so that people who suffer from these types of issues could have access to treatment regardless of the status economically that they have. His wife reminisced that if Reggie had been alive, they were going to get an RV after their children were in college, but she won't now as she has no one to ride with her.

His children remember that their father was a fan of Star Wars with his son saying that he would have loved the movies that Marvel is doing. The rest of the world will remember Reggie as not only a great player but a wonderful man with a God-given talent who was a positive influence on youth and those around him. 







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