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Thursday, August 25, 2005
The Promised Land

By Kris Schwartz
Special to

Signature Game
January 26, 1997 - Prior to Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, 35-year-old Reggie White had never won any championship on any level. But that night in the bayou, the defensive end set a Super Bowl record with three sacks to help the Green Bay Packers defeat the New England Patriots, 35-21.

White started off slowly, failing to make a tackle in the opening 30 minutes. "In the first half, I didn't feel too good," White said. "They were chipping me, doing a lot of cutting."

But the second half was a different story. After Desmond Howard returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to extend the Pack's lead to 35-21 in the third quarter, White performed like the career sacks leader that he was. On consecutive plays, he sacked Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe for losses of eight and six yards.

With less than two minutes left and the Patriots attempting a final comeback, White forced New England into an even deeper hole. On first down, he sacked Bledsoe again, for a nine-yard loss. "After that, I knew we had won," White said. "It was a great feeling."

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Weighing six pounds at birth, White grew fast, hitting 30 pounds at three months.

  • He was always bigger than his classmates and some would tease him with names like "Land of the Giants" and "Bigfoot."

  • Competing in football and basketball at Chattanooga's Howard High School, White was named Two-Sport Player of the Year in the nation his senior year. Patrick Ewing finished second.

  • In his first NFL game, a 16-10 Eagles loss to the Giants on Sept. 29, 1985, White recorded 2 sacks, 10 tackles and tipped a pass that teammate Herman Edwards returned for a touchdown.

  • White was voted MVP of the 1987 Pro Bowl after recording four sacks.

  • White graduated from Tennessee in 1990 with a bachelor of arts in human services.

  • After Eagles owner Norman Braman refused to pay to keep White from leaving as a free agent in 1993, thousands of fans gathered in Philadelphia's JFK Plaza in March for a Rally for Reggie.

  • White didn't want to leave Philadelphia, but said his relationship with Braman had "deteriorated to a point where he was probably glad to see me go."

  • White's impact on the Green Bay defense was felt in his first season (1993). The Packers went from 23rd on defense to second with no dramatic personnel changes except for White.

  • In 1994, White was named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

  • On Nov. 20, 1994, White's streak of 117 straight non-strike starts ended because of a sprained ligament in his left elbow. However, he came in to play part of the game against Dallas and made six tackles.

  • On New Year's Eve 1994 in a wild-card game, White and his defensive teammates limited the Lions' Barry Sanders to minus-1 yard on 13 carries in a 16-12 Green Bay win. The Packers set an NFL playoff record by holding Detroit to minus four yards rushing.

  • White only missed one game in his career due to injury. On Dec. 3, 1995, he suffered a torn hamstring and missed the next game. He was then declared out for the season by coach Mike Holmgren, but just a day later, White said he was healed by God, felt better, and was on the field two days later in a Green Bay win.

  • In 1996, White signed a $19-million, five-year contract extension with the Packers.

  • Packers president Bob Harlan said White recruited for the team, sending a message to the rest of the NFL that Green Bay was a great place to play.

  • The 1996 Green Bay defense was ranked first in the NFL for the first time since 1967  Vince Lombardi's final season as the Packers head coach.

  • In 1996, White began filming Reggie's Prayer, a movie about a professional football player who retires to work with at-risk teens.

  • On May 18, 1997, White appeared as a gymnastics coach with Olympic gold medalists Kerri Strug and Nadia Comaneci on the CBS show Touched by an Angel.

  • That same night, he wrestled former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Steve McMichael as part of a pay-per-view event called Slamboree. White lost after McMichael hit him over the head with a briefcase.

  • Following White's comments on race and homosexuality in 1998, CBS excluded him from their search for an NFL analyst.

  • He is tied with Bruce Smith for the most postseason sacks with 12.

  • Once, after sacking Neil Lomax, White looked down at the Cardinals quarterback and said, "Neil, Jesus loves you." Lomax shot back, "I know. But what's your problem?"

  • With 15 sacks, White took down Phil Simms more than any other quarterback. Lomax was second with 13.

  • Former teammates Brett Favre and Eugene Robinson were pallbearers at White's funeral.