Reggie White Enshrinement speech
Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium
August 5, 2006
Jeremy White (presenter):
I would first like to thank God, but I would like to specify which God. I'd like to thank the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for making me, my dad, and this whole event, giving us the strength that I know me and my mom are about to receive.
I would like to thank the NFL for the wonderful honor of being able to help with the induction process of my father Reggie White.
Reggie was an honest, humble, honorable, dedicated, determined, passionate and caring man. He is inducted today not only because of his athletic achievements, but because he was a great player on the field in accordance with being a great person throughout life.
If life were to have a Hall of Fame for people who were important in society, I would be so bold as to say that my dad would be in the life Hall of Fame. His passion for God, his love for his family and community, and his dedication toward making the world a better place would at least get him nominated.
He always used to say that after he passed away, he wanted people to remember what he did away from the football field rather than being remembered for the records he broke, the games he won, the quarterbacks he sacked. Reggie will always be remembered as the man he was.
He was a compassionate father, a loving husband, a selfless friend, and a loyal teammate. I know that he will be an inspiration to countless people who want to make their dream a reality, whatever their dream might be.
Reggie got to the top because he was determined to do what he wanted to do. He wanted to be a preacher and he wanted to be a football player ever since he was 10 years old. I would say he came a long way in both professions, learning about the Lord for over 20 years, with the last four seasons of his life being the most strenuous. I would say he's done great in both areas of his life.
Reggie will be remembered by some as the man who sacked quarterbacks on Sundays, like I mentioned earlier. But to others, he will be remembered for his faith in God. And yet to others he will be remembered, yet again, as a father, a friend and a husband.
Even though Reggie is not here to receive this great honor the NFL has allowed him to receive, I know he is with us. He is with us in spirit, but most of all he is with us in our memories. As long as we continue to remember anyone we have lost, they are never completely gone. They are with us.
The legacy that he leaves behind is what he taught everyone he met. He will live on through everything he taught. And if what we have learned and our memories of him live on, then in essence, Reggie and his legacy will continue to live on.
If people can remember that about anyone they have lost, they will realize that memories should bring joy, not sadness.
I never thought I'd be presenting a monumental award such as this, but I am humbled the NFL would allow me to do so. And with that, to accept the award, I present the greatest mom I've ever known, wouldn't trade her in for the world, love her to death, Sara White.
Sara White (representing Reggie White):
I don't know if anyone has ever heard me speak before, but Reggie and I go hand in hand, and that's long winded.
But today is probably the hardest speech I'll ever make in my life, because I'm not here about Sara White, it's about Reggie White. And as I was thinking about what Reggie would say, that's the hardest part, even though we have been knowing each other and friends for 25 years. There is no justice in anyone that what they can say about Reggie White and what he would say today. But I'm going to try my best. I'm going to try my best.
First of all, I know he would thank the Hall of Fame committee, the volunteers especially, because our Urban Hope program lives on volunteers. Without our volunteers with Urban Hope, we wouldn't have been as successful the past eight years.
I would like to thank the Hall of Famers who have welcomed us, and their families. It's a fraternity. Seriously, they said you cannot get out of it, and they mean it. Even though may not have liked each other on the field, once you become a Hall of Famer, you're in it for life, and you have to love each other. That's the blessed part about being part of this organization, that they have decided to unite as brotherhood.
When I met Reggie White 25 years ago as a friend, I never dreamed that I would be here, let alone make this speech, let alone have the NFL career that we had together as a family. Because, just like John Madden said, and Warren Moon, who appreciated Felicia so much, because it was the back bone of the family that allowed the men to be who they were.
I praise the Father, that I had kids who understood that in their father, that he gave of himself to so many people. Some may look at it as neglect, but we look at it as a way to reach out to people. We look at it as compassionate. We look at it as it lifts us up. The more people we help, the more people we influence, the better we are.
So now here is the hardest part. As I reflect on our conversations over the past 22 years, I'm here to try, try my darnedest, to remember the stories he told me so I can convey them to you today.
First is his coach, Robert Pulliam, that I heard so much about, who I've met, him and his wife, and they've become friends. He made Reggie tough. Not only did he make him tough, he made him believe that he could be the best at whatever he set out to be in the sports arena.
His No. 1 friend and fan, Herman Prader from Chattanooga, Tennessee. From day one, it was Herman was going to take the pictures. Herman always had a camera in his hand. Herman had more confidence in Reggie than Reggie himself that he would be famous.
His high school teachers of Howard High School who tolerated and spanked him. Because back then I think they could spank you, because they could in my era, and Reggie is older than me because I'm still 29.
All of you Howard High School teachers, thank you so much for developing Reggie into the man that has he had become.
Then off to the University of Tennessee, because often he said he didn't want to leave home, he couldn't leave his mother, he couldn't stay too far from her. So he went down the street where the UT Vols embraced him, where he met Coach Marmin, Carmen Togano and Johnny Majors. These men influenced him spiritually, academically, and athletically.
I remember Carmen staying on top of him, making sure he graduated. He did graduate. So many of the men go pro and don't graduate. He made sure that Reggie graduated.
Oh, then of course, we got those troublemaker friends in college. I can't name them all. But I can name Tony Simmons, Willie Gault and Lee Jenkins. Those were his three running buddies that got him in trouble after curfew.
His next football phase brought him a lot of joy, the Memphis Showboats. He didn't even think he was playing for a professional team. They had so much fun. If you guys never experienced a USFL game, it's too late now, because they're defunct, but he had a great time. And through that he created many friends. Many of those friends became competitors in the NFL.
He played two years with them. After that, he became friends with them. At that time he became closer to his agents, Kyle Roche, Jimmy Sexton, because they lived in Memphis. And the most important thing to happen in Memphis, Jeremy White was born in Memphis, Tennessee. That was my son who just spoke.
Like Warren said, today would have been the best day of Reggie's life besides watching the birth of his two children. As memory serves me, the Philadelphia Eagles signed him, and there he started wonderful relationships.
First I want to thank the guys for coming out today to support Reggie, because they do have a game tomorrow, and I do appreciate that. I know y'all clapping because the Raiders coach left. Y'all wouldn't have been clapping that well with him being here. No, I'm just joking.
Then we have Marion Campbell, his first coach, Buddy Ryan, Rich Kotite from the Eagles, and his personal the line coach who I can't name, his personal friends. Jerome Brown, who we lost so many years ago. I think that was the hardest time of Reggie's life. Seth Joyner, Andre Waters, Clyde Simmons, Keith Jackson, Haddix, Strauthers, Byron Evans, Wes Hopkins.
By the way, Mike Golic was on that team, believe it or not. He was on that No. 1 defensive line team. If you heard him speak, people don't believe it, but he was there.
Next is the Green Bay Packers, which I thank immensely. They came out today, although they have a scrimmage later on today. I feel very honored that they were represented immensely today. I'm just overwhelmed by the support.
I just remember Ron Wolf and Bob Harlan and Mike Holmgren talking to Reggie about coming to the Packers. Reggie said, I think I may go to the Packers. I said, Where? Where is the Packers?
But you know what, that was the best thing that ever happened to us. Our kids became their best friends, because they were older, came from Green Bay, Wisconsin. And Ray Rhodes made a great impact on Reggie's life. George Koonce, Santana Dotson, Dorsey Levens.
Brett Favre, of course was Reggie's little brother. He may not admit it now, because he's grey, but he did look up to Reggie at one time. I'm sure he's continuing to do that as he continues to play.
On a personal note, I'll have to thank Reggie's parents, Thelma Kire and Charles White, because without them I wouldn't have had the 25 years with the greatest man on this earth that produced the two best kids that we've had. So John and I beg to differ. He has two children, I have two. Two plus two is four. We bear the difference with Warren, because he said he had the four best kids. Between John and I, we think we have the four best kids on this earth.
One of them you heard from earlier. We just feel so blessed. I'll tell you the truth, Jecolia has a gift. She sang the national anthem earlier. She has had that gift for a long time. It wasn't until after Reggie passed that she decided she would honor her father and sing no matter how shy or no matter how demanding or no matter how hot it is. I thank you, Jecolia, for doing that for us today.
I'm sure I missed a lot of people. I know Reggie today will want to dedicate this award to his grandmothers Isela White and his recently passed grandmother Mildred Dodds, who everyone in the family affectionately called Ma. If you ever heard Reggie say Ma, that's the woman we need to remember in your prayers. When I first met Reggie at 16, I kept hearing, Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma. I thought he had a stuttering problem. That wasn't it. I met Ma, then I understood. She was Ma. She was the mother. She was the matriarch of the family. He respected her. He guided her.
Although some of you may not like this, she did not want him to play football because, as all mothers are, and grandmothers, we don't want our little babies to get hurt. He went on to play football with her blessing, and now he is today being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And just to let you know, Reggie was no phoney. He stood for what he believed in. That's the thing I want to encourage you. Whatever you believe in, you stand on your principles. Do not anyone sway you. This has been a very difficult time for our family because we have been running and running and running. But thank you to Jehovah, the father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he has taken care of our family.
I tell you, it's because of him that I am able to be here today. And the rearing of our children, as they sit behind us, my parents reared me, my dad Charles and Maria Copeland, reared me to be who I am today. I thank you, dad and mom. They're in the audience. I thank you for giving me the values that I have.
Last thought. Often people ask how I've made it. How have you made it? How are you so strong? How do you mourn? You know, everybody mourn differently, and we can't judge those who mourn outside or inside. And everybody treat death differently.
But praise the Father, I know that this is not the last stop for any of us, if we know the Father. So because I know where Reggie is, because I understand what he's doing and his purpose. Do you know he lived a full life. He lived 43 years. He's done so many things that people have not done at 70 years old.
So I praise the Father for that. But they ask me, how can you be so happy? How do you survive? Well, first of all, I have to be. You just can't lay down. I have Jeremy and Jecolia, in the way future daughter in law, son in law, grandkids, way future, after they turn 30.
But my motto is: Forgive, live, love, laugh, and pray. And that's how I've been holding my strength together for my family.
One last thing. We're talking about history. We knew Reggie, Reggie's history in football. Just like Jeremy said, Reggie's legacy will live on through you. If you continue to do what you need to do, and your family first, your community, your school, at your work job, your legacy, you would take Reggie's spirit and legacy with you because that's what he would want you to do.
And speaking of legacy, when I met Bill Willis, who we honor today, I was really excited. I wanted to get an autograph. I said, I have to have one ball for him. Nobody else will go on this ball except for Bill Willis. That's what we need to appreciate, the people that came before us, the people that came before us, we need to appreciate it.
One last thing is that remember, it's not how you die, it wasn't about Reggie's death, it's how he lived. I encourage you to live like Reggie lived. Thank you so much.