The NFL’s Reggie White

Last month, one of the most celebrated careers in National Football League history came to an end. After 16 years, Reggie White, the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history, announced his retirement. But as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote, even in retirement White will continue to have a profound impact on the people of Wisconsin and the nation--and I, for one, am glad he will. Even a cursory look at White's career attests to his greatness on the field. He is the NFL's all-time leader in quarterback sacks. In his last season, despite playing with a bad back and against men 10 or 12 years younger, he still led the league in that category. That's why, at the age of 37, Reggie was the oldest player ever to be chosen as the Defensive Player of the Year. His contribution to the Green Bay Packers goes far beyond what he did on the field. When he arrived in 1993, the Packers hadn't been to the playoffs in a decade, and were nearly three decades removed from the glory days of Vince Lombardi. White changed all that. As Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote: "It was his mere presence in the locker room and on the field that drew the best out of his teammates, and it was his presence period that drew other players to Green Bay." But White's influence went far beyond football. He's a lay Baptist minister, and his godly character and good works have been on display for everyone to see. White founded Urban Hope, an inner-city business training and investment project. He speaks to kids about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Because of his contributions off and on the field, White became the most popular public figure in Wisconsin. Well, this attention sometimes results in controversy. Last year, in a speech before the Wisconsin legislature, White talked about sin, including homosexuality. While White affirmed his love for homosexuals, he reminded lawmakers that the Bible condemns the practice of homosexuality. Despite the loud protests from gay activists, White stood by his principles. "I didn't start a ministry to please everybody," he said. Then he added, " I like people to think good of me. But I'm not going to sell out." Good for him. While the controversy may have cost White a shot at the broadcast booth, his teammates, coaches and the people of Wisconsin hold White in the highest esteem. As his former coach Mike Holmgren says, "It was a privilege to be around him… to work with him you may not agree with what he says off the field. But no one can question his honesty, his feelings for people, his caring for people." We live in an age when it seems that character counts for almost nothing and when virtue is mocked. However, Reggie White is admired in a way other athletes are not, precisely because of his character and for his courage in saying what he believes. This is what makes him such a great role model for our kids. At a time when folks are asking, "Who can we point our kids to for examples of moral courage?" I say that you need to go no further then the great NFL legend and Baptist pastor, Reggie White. He reminds us that it's character--not just job performance--that matters.


Chuck Colson


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