Friday, August 04, 2006


People can talk about Brett Favre until they're blue in the face (and if they work for ESPN, they probably will). And they should, because Favre has been great.

But April 6, 1993, was the day the Green Bay Packers became viable again. That was the day that defensive end Reggie White signed with the Packers, becoming the first major player in the NFL to switch teams in the new free agency system.

White took the largest financial offer, which made sense, since the Packers were just emerging from a string of futility that had, for the most part, been going on since Vince Lombardi left the franchise after Super Bowl II. It shocked the NFL, because no one knew at the time the impact that free agency and a salary cap would have on the league or on free agency (the cap came into play in 1994), and Green Bay was still considered a league outpost of sorts, a place that players would never consider going to on purpose.

But when Reggie White signed in Green Bay, that all changed. Suddenly, it was okay to play in the NFL's smallest market again. And the Packers began to flourish.

White led a resurgence on the defensive side of the football, and the Packers parlayed his presence into the free-agent signings of DT Santana Dotson and star DE Sean Jones, key players on the defensive line as the Packers surged towards back-to-back NFC title game appearances in 1995 and 1996. White recovered from serious elbow and knee injuries to continue his MVP-caliber play, constantly fighting through double-teams to wreak havoc in the backfield while also giving other players a chance to shine because they were only being blocked one-on-one.

White's larger-than-life image was further enlarged in Green Bay, where his impact on the community and the state will never be fairly measured with words. And his death was a day of great shock and sadness, not only in Green Bay, but throughout the football world.

Saturday, White will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With all due respect to Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, John Madden, Warren Moon, and Rayfield Wright, all eyes in Canton will be on White's widow, Sara, who is charged with the responsibility of giving the speech that White was born to give. As Wright Thompson writes on, Sara White has had great troubles trying to write this speech, more than any other speech she has given since Reggie's passing.

Thompson does make one glaring error. He says that once this speech is over, people will begin to forget Reggie White, more and more every day. That might be true in some parts of the NFL world, but it's most likely not true in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Reggie's legacy and impact will live on for generations and generations. He's a legend in this state, as he should be, and he will always be a presence at Lambeau Field.

(I'm also looking forward to John Madden's induction speech. If you have ESPN Insider, you can download an interview with "John Madden" that was conducted on Mike and Mike Thursday morning by going to And if you've ever heard Frank Caliendo's impersonation of John Madden, you know it's worth your time to download this interview. Is it too late to tie Madden to the back of the Madden Cruiser and fly in Caliendo to give the speech on his behalf?)

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