White gets call from Hall

Legendary defensive end elected posthumously to Hall of Fame

As expected, Reggie White, arguably the greatest defensive end ever to play in the National Football League, was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday. White was among six nominees for the Class of 2006 chosen by the 39 members of the Hall of Fame selection committee.

White, a first-ballot nominee, joins New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson, former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden, Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman and Dallas Cowboys tackle Rayfield Wright.

White had 198 sacks, which is more than any other player in NFL history but Bruce Smith, who has 200. After signing as a free agent with Green Bay in 1993, he helped the Packers to two straight Super Bowls, including a victory in Super Bowl XXXI. White retired after the 1998 season, but then came out of retirement to play one season in Carolina in 2001.

White's widow, Sara, accepted her husband's nomination to the Hall of Fame, but once she took a seat beside Aikman, she could not control her emotions.

As Wright stood at the podium and talked about how honored and humbled he was to be selected to the Hall on his final attempt, tears streamed down White's face. She bowed her head, tried to smile, and thought of the man who died 13 months ago at the age of 43 before he could receive pro football's highest honor.

"I was thinking Reggie should be here," Sara White said after the announcement that White will be inducted on Aug. 4-5 in Canton, Ohio.

"I was thinking about how sad it was that he wasn't, and how much he would've enjoyed it. I mean, when I'm speaking it's hard for me to cry because I have a mindset, and it's in your mind, ‘I'm not going to cry. I'm not going to cry.' Of course when you sit down and relax, everything starts to come to you. So all the memories came to me concerning just the joy in Reggie's face with regards to the Hall of Fame ... and those difficult moments he won't be a part of."

Moon became the first African American quarterback in the modern era to be selected to the Hall. Like Aikman and White, Moon also was a first-ballot nominee.

One of the most influential men in the game today, Madden was giddy over his nomination. He was in an ABC production meeting preparing for Sunday night's Super Bowl telecast when he saw the announcement on the NFL Network.

"When they said that, I haven't taken a normal breath since then or had a normal thought," a giddy and appreciative Madden said. A few minutes later, as his face turned red with excitement, Madden pounded the podium and asked rhetorically, "They can't take this away, can they?"

The selection committee was so sold on White's credentials that they did not even discuss whether he should be included. The two men who presented White to the committee simply said White's name, and asked if anyone had any questions. No one did.

White's career spanned 15 seasons and three teams, beginning in 1985 with the Eagles. He spent eight seasons in Philadelphia, then six in Green Bay, where he won a Super Bowl. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 13 times and twice was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.

"Reggie is well deserving of his Hall of Fame induction," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "In my mind, he will go down as the greatest defensive end in NFL history. He was a great teammate and a fun player to coach. As good as a player as he was on the field, he was an even better person off the field. He left a lasting legacy, both in the NFL and in the community."

Added former Green Bay executive Ron Wolf, who signed White as a free agent in 1993, a turning point in the Packers' fortunes:

"This is a bittersweet day for me because I don't have the opportunity to personally congratulate him. I am happy, though, that from now on we can refer to him as 'Hall of Famer Reggie White.'

"Having a player of Reggie's stature on a team with so much history and tradition was a great marriage. When Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes and I were recruiting Reggie as a free agent in 1993, Reggie sat in my office and I said, 'Reggie, you're already a great football player. If you come to Green Bay, you'll be a legend,'" he said.

Sara White said she has not decided who will deliver her husband's acceptance speech at the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, in August. After Reggie died, his longtime teammate Keith Jackson told Sara that Reggie had planned to ask Sara to introduce him, if he ever got into the Hall. Sara said she and her two children will make the final decision now.

In the meantime, as is customary, Sara will join the other five nominees in Hawaii at the Pro Bowl next week.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who bought the team after White went to Green Bay, in a statement called White "one of the finest players and human beings ever to play in the National Football League."

"He is certainly one of the top players in the long history of the league. Reggie was more than a great football player. He was a kind, giving man whose legacy on and off the football field will never be forgotten."

Note: Information obtained for this story is from various reports out of Detroit.


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