Top 10 Football Players in Tennessee History – No. 2

Adam Milliken reveals the reasoning behind his No. 2 choice for the Top 10 Football Players in Tennessee History.

Reggie White at Lambeau Field in 1998. Photo courtesy of creativecommons.org. No changes made.

Reggie White

Defensive End, 1980-83

“The Minister of Defense” was one of the most dominant pass rushers in football history.

Born in Chattanooga, White was a Tennessee kid through-and-through and played for Johnny Majors and the Tennessee Volunteers. He made a habit of blowing past offensive linemen and harassing quarterbacks on a regular basis.

Once he worked his way into the starting position near the end of his freshman season, White was a force of nature. Through the next three seasons, he never finished with less than seven sacks. In 1983, his senior season, he flashed the all-time great talent that everyone knew he had. He exploded and recorded 100 tackles and 15 sacks, which still stands as the school record for most sacks in a single season. His performance throughout his senior season — coupled with the already great play he produced in his freshman-junior seasons — made White one of the best ever.

When White left Tennessee, he was drafted fourth overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1984 NFL Draft. However, he would not begin his professional football career in the NFL. He began with the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League (USFL). In his two seasons with the team, White recorded 198 tackles and 23.5 sacks. When the USFL collapsed in 1985, White entered the NFL with the Eagles.

He played eight seasons in Philadelphia, never recording fewer than 11 sacks in any of them. He had 21 sacks in the 1987 season (which was only 12 games long). During his tenure in Philadelphia, White managed to accumulate more sacks than games played — he had 124 sacks when his days as an Eagle came to an end.

After becoming a free agent in 1993, White signed with the Green Bay Packers. Like every other stop in his football career, White was magnificent. He registered another 68.5 sacks, a franchise record at the time. He also helped lead the team to win Super Bowl XXXI and won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1998.

White retired for a year before playing one final season for the Carolina Panthers in 2000. He started all 16 games for Carolina and recorded five and a half sacks.

When White retired from the NFL in 2000, he was the league’s all-time sack leader, having registered 198 in his career. Although that record no longer stands, he still holds a significant mark. If his sacks with the Memphis Showboats counted, then White would still be professional football’s all-time sack leader.

White arguably has the most impressive list of accolades in the world of sports. He was a 13-time Pro Bowler, a first-team All-Pro selection 10 times, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and led the league in sacks twice, just to name a few.

After his unfortunate and untimely death in December of 2004, White became forever immortalized by the teams that were lucky enough to have had such an incredible player wear their uniforms. During the 2005 season, the University of Tennessee, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Green Bay Packers all retired his No. 92 jersey (which he wore in all three places). In 2006, White was a first-ballot selection to the Professional Football Hall of Fame. He also has two streets named after him — one in Chattanooga (Reggie White Boulevard) and one in Green Bay (Reggie White Way).

Although he left the world too soon, Reggie White left an undeniable mark on it, both on and off the field. Those who were lucky enough to have seen him play during his time will surely never forget it.

Edited by Nathan Odom

Featured Image by David Wilson