CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CHRISTIAN EXAMINER) — For Reggie White's widow, selecting essays for a collection about how the late "Minister of Defense" – a National Football League Hall of Fame defensive end-- impacted individuals, is a small task in the bigger picture of preserving his memory.
"It's always about the kids and the grandkids," Sara said in a phone interview with Christian Examiner. "I want to be able to tell them, 'You never met your grandfather, but this is what people were saying about what your granddaddy did for them.' It's not about football. This is what your legacy is all about."
"Sports Spectrum" magazine recently announced an essay contest honoring the late NFL Hall of Famer and contestants are encouraged to share their favorite memories of White.
Selected essays will be included in "Letters to 92," a book being compiled by White's widow, Sara, and her two adult children, Jeremy and Jecolia.
White played briefly in the USFL before moving on to play 15 seasons in the NFL (1985-2000) with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina, making the Pro Bowl 13 times.
He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice (1987, 1998), to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the 1990s All-Decade Team and the 1980s All-Decade Team. He ranks second all-time with 198 sacks. His famed #92 is retired by the Tennessee Volunteers, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers. And he was posthumously inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2006.
White passed away suddenly in 2004 after suffering a fatal cardiac arrhythmia at the young age of 43.
In the years since his death, Sara has continued to hear from people who have been moved by something her husband did or said off the field. And she has hung on to many of the letters, scrapbooks and press clippings — so much so that she has needed to begin to downsize and digitize some of the content.
Reggie and Sara started the Urban Hope Entrepreneurial Center in Green Bay to empower entrepreneurs to realize their dreams of owning and operating their own business — a work that continues to this day.
And Sara easily recalls many of the stories she has heard over the years about her husband preaching or speaking at events or helping people in various other ways. One such story goes back to his days with the Memphis Showboats (1984-85) in the USFL. Reggie and Sara were at a Boys Club event.
"A woman came up to me and said, 'I just want to tell you that your husband has made such a profound impact on my husband.' At the time, she was probably like 40 years old, and my husband was in his mid-twenties. I can't remember what Reggie talked about to influence the man, but this was my first understanding of how powerful he was, even as a young man. We were both young, and here he was impacting older people."
Reggie accepted his role as an inspiration, but ultimately he wanted to inspire parents to be an example and role model for their own children. At the same time, he recognized that sports afforded him such a platform — a truth that made choosing "Sports Spectrum" for a contest like this an easy choice for Sara.
"Reggie was universally accepted because of athletics, and that's the importance of 'Sports Spectrum.' 'Sports Spectrum' is able to minister in a non-threatening way to non-Christians."
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During her last move, Sara came across some of her many boxes of memories — which included several issues of "Sports Spectrum," featuring Reggie on the cover — and it sparked the idea for the essay contest. Sara, Jeremy and Jecolia will review the essays to determine the three prize winners.
The grand prize winner will win Reggie's 1999 Mercedes-Benz CL600. Second place will receive a Super Bowl helmet signed by Reggie and Brett Favre. And third place will receive a Super Bowl XXXI football and "Sports Illustrated" magazine, both signed by Reggie and Brett Favre.
The entry fee is $250, and the deadline to enter is December 19, 2015, subject to change.
All proceeds will go to support Sports Spectrum Global — a multimedia ministry with the purpose of impacting people by connecting faith and sports in a relevant way, ultimately directing people toward a personal, loving God.
To enter the essay contest, visit www.sportsspectrum.com/letters-to-92.