Green Bay Packers Legend Reggie White: Gone, But Never Forgotten
On this day eight years ago, the Green Bay Packers retired Reggie White‘s No. 92 jersey. Despite only playing six seasons for the Packers, White became the fifth player ever to have his jersey number retired by the Packers, as he was the key cog in Green Bay’s return to Titletown. White is second in NFL history in career sacks, but does that make him the second-greatest pass rusher of all-time? Absolutely not, because he was and still is the greatest pass-rusher of all-time.
White had his jersey number additionally retired by the Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Volunteers. The only other players to have their jersey number retired by multiple teams in professional sports are White, Jackie Robinson (baseball) and Wayne Gretzky (hockey). Yes, that is one helluva class to be a part of.
Known as the “Minister of Defense”, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound White helped propel the Packers on the defensive side of the football to their first Super Bowl title in 29 years in 1996. White was the ultimate game-changing defensive end every NFL team wished they could have had, and he was not just a reason but the reason the Packers were able to bring the Vince Lombardi trophy back to where it rightfully belongs.
Football fans often forget that White began his professional football career in the now-extinct USFL with the Memphis Showboats. With the Showboats, White recorded 23.5 sacks in two seasons. By the end of his rookie NFL season in 1986, White was already the most fierce defensive player in the NFL. In 1987, White recorded 21 sacks in only12 games! If it were not for the strike-shortened 1987 NFL season, White would have been on pace for 28 sacks in a 16-game season. Could you imagine that? 28 sacks in one season? It probably would’ve become one of professional sports’ most untouchable records.
White also recorded his 100th career sack by his 93rd career game. The second-fastest player to reach 100 career sacks in NFL history? Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who reached it in 113 games. I mean c’mon, no football player has even come close to reaching White’s pace. Even after he only played in Philadelphia for eight seasons, his 124 career sacks remains a franchise record.
White joined the Packers in 1993, and the difference he made on the entire franchise was unbelievable. In 1992, the Packers had the 23rd ranked defense. By the end of White’s first season in Green Bay, the White-led defense was ranked the 2nd-best in the NFL. In their Super Bowl season in 1996, the White-led defense (at the time) set an NFL record, allowing only 210 points and 19 total touchdowns in 16 games. White was a larger-than-life figure, a polarizing player who had the impact of a franchise quarterback while he was buried in the trenches.
In White’s final season with the Packers in 1998, he won his third Defensive Player of the Year award. No other defensive lineman in NFL history has won more than two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
After he initially retired from football after the ’98 season (White returned to football in 2000, playing one season for the Carolina Panthers), White was the Packers’ all-time sacks leader after only six seasons (his record was later broken by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila).
In only 15 NFL seasons, White recorded 198.5 career sacks. It took 19 seasons for all-time sacks leader Bruce Smith to edge White’s record. White averaged nearly 14 sacks per season, while Smith averaged 10.5. Counting White’s USFL playing days, White recorded 222 career sacks in 17 seasons (13 sacks per season). Unofficially, White is the all-time sacks leader in professional football.
White was more than an All-Pro defender, he was an icon whose legendary status continues to grow throughout the years. No pass-rusher will ever leave a stamp on the game like White did in his 15-year career. It is a strong guarantee, but I feel putting my trust in a Minister isn’t such a bad idea.