Packers planning weekend celebration honoring White

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers will retire Reggie White's No. 92 on Sunday, and coach Mike Sherman challenged his team to live up to his legacy.

"A lot of guys here didn't get a chance to play with Reggie or even get to know Reggie," said center Mike Flanagan, one of a handful of Packers who played with White in the 1990s. "So, he just wanted to let some guys know what Reggie White meant to this organization, what he meant to the NFL and what he meant to this planet as a human being."

Brett Favre said White's words of wisdom live on in all who were ever touched by the "Minister of Defense."

"One of the best things to happen to me in my career was having an opportunity to play with Reggie White," Favre said Thursday. "And I think the way I handle myself today, the fun I try to bring to this team and the intensity I try to bring, not only in games but in practices, meetings and things like that is from Reggie White. No doubt about it. What a great player. And it's a great honor to say I played with Reggie White."

Fullback William Henderson said he plans to honor White by playing with precision and passion against the Cleveland Browns.

"What better honor for Reggie White than to go out on Sunday and win the game in his honor and be able to dedicate a win to him?" Henderson said.

Browns coach Romeo Crennel said White's legacy goes far beyond Wisconsin.

"He was a great person, as well as being a great player," Crennel said. "That combination doesn't come along very often. So, this tribute to him is well-deserved."

Among the oldest major professional sports franchises, only the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland Athletics have fewer retired numbers than the Packers' four: fullback Tony Canadeo (3), wide receiver Don Hutson (14), quarterback Bart Starr (15) and linebacker Ray Nitschke (66).

White, who suffered from sleep apnea and sarcoidosis, died last December in Cornelius, N.C., at age 43, shortly after Packers president Bob Harlan had approached him about having his jersey retired, the franchise's first since Nitschke's in 1983.

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.

He joined the Packers in 1993 in one of the biggest free-agent signings in sports history and during a six-year stay helped restore respectability to a faded franchise. He led the Packers to a Super Bowl triumph over New England following the 1996 season.

When the NFL welcomed unfettered free agency and the salary cap in 1993, many figured Green Bay, the league's smallest outpost, was doomed. Instead, with White's help, the Packers experienced a reversal of fortunes.

No other team has as good a regular-season record as Green Bay's 127-66 mark in those 12-plus years since, and only the Packers have finished .500 or above in every one of those seasons.

White's widow, Sara, said she was melancholy as she talked about her late husband leading up to the festivities that include a celebration Saturday in Green Bay.

"The melancholy moment can be tears of joy and tears of sadness," she told The Associated Press from her home in Charlotte, N.C. "Yes, it does hurt, but I never want his legacy of life to die. It means more for me that someone gets something out of his life than for me to have a moment of sadness that he's not with me."

The couple's 17-year-old daughter, Jecolia, will sing the national anthem Sunday.

Jecolia, a senior in high school, gave up basketball to pursue music, something her father always encouraged her to do. She will also sing a song she wrote for White during festivities planned on Saturday, when a street named "Reggie White Way" will be dedicated.

"It's entitled 'Miss You.' So, bring your Kleenex if you come," Sara White said. "It's going to be a celebration of Reggie's life. It'll be sad, but it'll be happy."

The couple's son, Jeremy, who attends Elon University, will speak at the celebration.

"It'll be one of those things," Sara White said, "where you don't know if you're crying because you're laughing so hard or if, doggone it, Reggie, you just mean so much to us. Life is not the same without you."