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Reggie White is considered by most experts to be the best defensive end to ever play in the National Football League. The 13-time Pro Bowl and Professional Football Hall of Fame inductee was born on this day in 1961.

Reginald Howard White was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to an interview with his mother, White aspired to be both a football player and a minister. An All-American high school star, White attended and played football for the Tennessee Volunteers and had a strong career that culminated into the retirement of his favored 92 number.

Despite his talent, White wasn’t on the radar of many scouts despite his massive 6-foot-5 frame. He hopped at the chance to stay in state and play professional football for the now-defunct United States Football League’s Memphis Showboats for two seasons. White then went on to star for the Philadelphia Eagles for eight seasons, emerging as a bruising defensive player that struck fear into the hearts of anyone playing opposite of him.

Fame followed White as he went to play for the Green Bay Packers where he helped the team when Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 after the team vanquished the New England Patriots. After a brief retirement, White rejoined the Carolina Panthers and retired officially in 2001. His number, 92, was retired by the Eagles and Packers.

While in college, the aptly named “Minister of Defense” became an actual ordained Baptist minister, affirming not only his aspirations but cementing his strong faith. White worked as an analyst and minister primarily after football, working mostly in and around where he was raised in church activities.

White passed in 2004 due to complications from sleep apnea. As a result, his wife, Sara, founded the Reggie White Sleep Disorders Research and Education Foundation to help others like her husband who suffer from disorders regardless of their economic or social status.

In 2006, the Professional Football Hall of Fame posthumously inducted  White in a moving ceremony led by his son, Jeremy, in prayer with Sara White delivering the acceptance speech.

White was 43.

PHOTO: Jeff Phelps

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