Packers honor Reggie White, retire number
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- To the cheers and chants of "Reg-gie," the "Minister of Defense" now has his name above the NFL's most famous cathedral.
The Green Bay Packers on Sunday retired Reggie White's No. 92 -- the fifth player so honored in club history -- at halftime in a 26-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.
"He gave himself to Green Bay and Green Bay showed its love to him and his family," said White's widow, Sara. "Because of the patience of the Green Bay fans for so many years, Reggie helped bring a Super Bowl title."
White's number joined wide receiver Don Hutson (14), fullback Tony Canadeo (3), quarterback Bart Starr (15) and linebacker Ray Nitschke (66) in a stirring ceremony that included former general manager Ron Wolf, who brought White to Green Bay, and White's children, Jecolia and Jeremy.
White, who suffered from sleep apnea and sarcoidosis, died last December in Cornelius, N.C., at age 43.
The number is the first retired since Nitschke received the honor 22 years ago. It's also the first posthumously awarded in club history.
The crowd again chanted "Reg-gie" late in the fourth quarter, but the defense couldn't come up with a key stop that would have given the Packers a chance to win and Steve Heiden's 62-yard TD reception sealed the victory.
"The Reggie White scenario was huge for us. There was plenty of motivation," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "That locker room was visibly upset with the loss."
White helped lead the defense and the Packers to their first championship since 1967 when the Packers defeated the New England Patriots 35-21 in 1996.
White played 15 seasons with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina. He retired after the 2000 season as the NFL's career sacks leader with 198, a mark that was subsequently passed by Bruce Smith.
"Today, we celebrate life," Sara White said. "A man who gave his life [to others] since the time I met him at the age of 16. I knew he would be special."
Jecolia sang the national anthem in her father's jersey.
Hundreds of fans also wore No. 92, and received a commemorative figurine of White.
Also on Saturday, the city of Green Bay dedicated a street known now as "Reggie White Way."
"We're overwhelmed with this event," Sara White said. "Thank you with all of our hearts."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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