There is something much more than old-school nostalgia permeating around those kelly green throwbacks. The Philadelphia Eagles have gained national recognition thanks to a well-orchestrated branding campaign that has brought back vivid memories of a bygone era.
While those teams of yesteryear never won a championship, they played with an enviable passion and unapologetic attitude. Reggie White – arguably the greatest pass rusher to ever do it – was the anchor, draped in a minister’s collar and dripping in kelly green swag.
His son, Jeremy White, will serve as the honorary captain prior to kickoff against Miami. He recently took an emotional trip down memory lane with Dave Spadaro to discuss his dad’s legacy.
“So, one of the things I remember is that the City of Philadelphia loved him so much. And still loves him,” Jeremy told Spadaro. “The high intensity of the games, even though I was very young, when I would have the opportunity to go to the games, I would always remember the fans being so into the Eagles.
“And then a separate part of it was that my dad was able to use his fame and his popularity for his values that he had, that he would go and minister in the streets of Philadelphia, too. He used to bring me and my sister along so part of my recollection of him as a football player is also remembering what he did for the City of Philadelphia.”
Jeremy White Reveals Best Memory: “One of the biggest recollections that I have, in the stadium, was my dad would sometimes let me come in and I would see his teammates and everything and, normally, any other human being would be just excited to be able to see these legends but there was an ice cream machine that I was really fond of that was there toward the locker room, that every time I went with him the first questions wasn’t can I go on the field? Or can I see all these amazing football players? No, it was, are we going to visit the ice cream machine today?”
Jeremy White Cheers for the Cowboys: “I grew up and still am a Dallas Cowboy fan. So, when I was younger all my friends said I can’t understand why you’re a Dallas Cowboy fan. Why would you like any other team or any other player? My player back then was Emmitt Smith. Why would you do that when your father is Reggie White? … and I always told them he’s just dad.”
Thank You: Reggie White Influencing the Next Generation
When San Francisco 49ers star Nick Bosa inked a record-setting $170 million contract extension back in September, he should have lit a candle in honor of Reggie White. The Eagles legend set the standard – and the expensive price tag – for all the quarterback hunters who came after him. Remember, White was the NFL’s first free agent and his class-action lawsuit revolutionized how players and teams conducted business. His $17 million deal with the Packers started a new trend.
“Every single time a top defensive player gets paid in the league I always tweet at them, or I try to, please thank Sara and Reggie White for what happened,” Jeremy White said.
Reggie White’s impact stretched way beyond contract negotiations and bank accounts, though. He was an ordained minister who respectfully shared his religious beliefs with anyone he crossed paths with in life. The Hall of Famer also used his celebrity to enact social change.
“There are times when a lot of fans may have seen this domineering presence on the field,” Jeremy White said, “and this unwavering behemoth of a man that could throw up 350 pounds 17 times in an Eagles practice and hold the record at the time, but what they didn’t see was a man who was so true to his convictions that at times … I remember the first time I saw my dad cry and it wasn’t necessarily that he was sad, it was that he wanted to help people so much and he felt like he wasn’t able to do what he wanted to put his mind out to do.”
His impact carried on long after his death in 2004 from cardiac arrhythmia believed to be caused by complications from undiagnosed sleep apnea. Aside from his stats and accolades, it is the off-the-field things that continue to feed White’s legacy.
“All the stories that I’m hearing about my father were ways in which he had a positive influence on someone else,” Jeremy White said. “Whether it was something as small as … I got an email about a note that he wrote to somebody in the 80s and how it really uplifted them that day to after he passed [away] with people coming up to me and telling me they got checked for sleep apnea and it saved my life.”
The Legend: Personal Connection for This Reporter
I won’t lie and say I knew Reggie White or enjoyed any kind of significant relationship with him. However, the No. 2 guy on the NFL’s all-time sacks list (198) — 124 of them in a kelly green uniform, tops in franchise history — did make an impression on me as a football-crazed youngster growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs.
You see, my dad was a season ticket holder going back to the team’s days at Franklin Field. I only submit that information to prove our family’s fandom. Anyway, Reggie White was doing an autograph signing at a local mall (FYI: it was a card show at the Plymouth Meeting Mall), so my father took me and my best friend to meet a living legend.
I can’t recall exactly what White told me on that day, but he did put his John Hancock on a football card bearing his likeness. It was a strong signature, one befitting a man of his stature, and he left a Bible verse on it that I never forgot and immediately looked up when I got home all those years ago: 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire