Really hated to hear this Sunday. Reggie White died of an apparent heart attack Saturday night or Sunday morning. He was 43 years old.
In an age where we seem to idolize professional athletes because they are accused of Rape or assault fans or walk away from their team mates because they would rather get stoned, Reggie White stood out as a model…a ROLE MODEL. Not only was he one of the greatest defensive ends to ever play in the NFL he was a standup guy who had his head screwed on right.
Reggie was known as the Minister of Defense. A hat tip to both his football skills and his walk with God. He wrote a Devotional in 1998 called “God’s Play Book”. My favorite item in the book begins on page 91.
“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. -James 3:10 NIV”
Hollering is almost universal among football coaches, and quite a few sprinkle profanity amid the screams. Most players are accustomed to it, and I can handle the screaming and hollering, but not the cursing. It actually motivates some guys, but to me, some words are just foul and humiliating, and they just rob me of the effort I want to give. If a coach curses, that shuts me down immediately, and I’m not shy about telling him.
When I went to Tennessee, Johnny Majors was my coach and Larry Marmie was my defensive coordinator. I went to Coach Majors and said, “If you want to holler at me and make me run all day, I’ll do it. The only thing I ask is that you don’t curse.” Coach Marmie heard about it and made a promise to the whole defense: “I will scream at you, but I will never curse or humiliate you.”
Our attitude was, “Yeah, right. Let’s see.”
But he kept his promise. He screamed but he never cursed, and we went from number ninety-nine in total defense to number nine.
Then one day in Philadelphia, my defensive line coach cursed. Even though Dale Haupt didn’t curse at me, he did it in front of all the players, so I wanted to retaliate in front of everybody. I said something back, and we started yelling at each other.
I didn’t curse, but I was wrong. You don’t do that to your boss, especially when you’re a Christian. I went to him the next day and apologized for confronting him in front of everyone, and I told him I didn’t mind when he was mad and hollered and screamed, but cursing really offended my faith. He apologized to me, and I apologized to him, and it was over.
Well, almost over. Dale quit cursing, but nothing could stop Buddy Ryan from cursing. He just cursed in general, not at me, Buddy loved me, but asking Buddy to stop cursing was like asking him to stop breathing, so I jsut gave up trying, and I didn’t even think about it anymore.
Until one night at training camp. Now, you have to understand, camp was forty-five minutes away from our homes, and we spent sex weeks every summer sweating all day long, then cooped up in little cinder-block dorm rooms all night long. We didn’t get many hours off, let alone days, and after being sequestered for a few weeks, it could drive a man crazy. So one night Sara was coming to visit, and I left my dorm room and went upstairs to ask Buddy if I could spend the night at a hotel with my wife.
I walked into an office where some of the assistant coaches were meeting and asked if Buddy was around, and they yelled down the hall, “Buddy, Reggie White wants you.”
So here Buddy comes out of his room, clear to the other end of the hall, and he starts walking and talking.
“Reggie White,” he hollers in that Oklahoma drawl of his, “I am not gonna stop cursing. I have been cursing my whole career. I can’t stop now. You can’t ask me to stop cursing. This the way I talk.”
He went on and on until he got right up to me.
I said, “Buddy, I didn’t come to ask you to top. I cam to see if I could spend a night with my wife.”
Buddy was so relieved, he started laughing.
“Oh sure,” he said, “You can spend the night with her.”
Buddy never did stop cursing. Be he knew how it bothered me. One time we played Indianapolis in a preseason game, and I didn’t have to play the second half except for the field goal unit. I went in, and one of the Colts linemen cursed at me, so I went back to the sideline and told Buddy I wanted to the second half after all because the guy cursed me.
He said, “Go in for one play.”
So I went in, but we were using a defense where I lined up on the tight end instead of the tackle who had cursed me. Buddy told me I only had one play and since I couldn’t get him, I ran up to him and told him, “Don’t you ever in your life use profanity on a man of God again.”
He told me, “Reggie, I apologize. The guys on the sideline told me that you are a minister, and I’m sorry.”
I was shocked that not only did he apologize but that his own teammates had chastised him and told him he was wrong.
Another time, a Detroit rookie used foul language that I would not let my dogs hear, and I looked him right in the eye and announced, “Jesus is coming back soon, and I hope you’re ready.” He just cursed me some more and returned to his huddle, and I was mad. I shouted across the field, “Jesus is coming back soon, and I hope you’re ready.” We broke our huddles, lined up a ferw inches from one another, and I said, “Jesus is coming back soon, and I don’t think you’re ready.”
When the ball was snapped, I said, “Here comes Jesus!” and with every ounce of fury I had, I plowed into his chest and drove him back about five yards. He plopped to the turf just in time to see me sack his quarterback.
After that, whenever we needed a big play, Buddy would ask me if Jesus was coming back soon.
God Bless you Reggie White. God Bless your family in their grief. Can’t wait to meet you!