Sunday, May 12, 2013
- by B.B. Branton
Thelma Collier’s fondest Mother’s Day memory of her son, Reggie White, was when he was a teenager.
“I had fixed a big family meal for that Sunday evening, went out for lunch and when we came back Reggie had eaten all the food … I mean everything,” said Mrs. Collier with a laugh.
The all-everything football star not only cleaned his plate on a regular basis in the White household, but also ate opposing quarterbacks and running backs for breakfast lunch and dinner.
White‘s hall of fame career ran the gamut that many only dream of – from Friday night lights at Howard High School to Saturday afternoons at Tennessee followed by Sunday’s in the National Football League.
Although White, also known as the Minister of Defense for his Christian faith, has been gone for almost a decade – White passed away Dec.26, 2004 – his memory and career remain in forefront.
The latest honor for White is Monday morning at 10 at Howard High School, as representatives from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and All-State Insurance will be on campus to present plaques to the school and White’s widow, Sara White.
Honoring White is part of the Hall of Fame/All-State partnership titled “Hometown Hall of Famers” to recognize former players and their hometowns.
“We are really excited about this honor for Reggie and Howard as it brings great recognition to the school and our community,” said Mrs. Collier who will be at the ceremony along with Reggie’s older brother Julius White and younger sister, Christie Rowe
Yet, with all his fame and fortune from football, the hall of famer never forgot his roots.
For several years he and several other NFL players hosted a free clinic for kids Chattanooga area.
“Reggie also never forgot his family and one of my fondest memories from his college days was that at Thanksgiving he would bring home several Tennessee teammates and we would have a great meal and just being together,” Mrs. Collier stated.
While football was the catalyst for White’s fame, baseball was his first sport.
Growing up in St. Elmo, White carried bat and glove to the nearby playground along with a worn out birth certificate.
“Reggie was always much bigger than all the other kids growing up and the coaches on the opposing teams , starting in t-ball, always checked his birth certificate to make sure he was in the correct league,” she said.
One can track his baseball talents to his grandfather (Mr. Collier's dad) who was a scout in the 1940s for the St. Louis Cardinals and to his father, Charles White, who is in the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame due to his softball and baseball careers.
“Being the biggest kid in the neighborhood and having coaches continually questioning his age did bother Reggie for a few years, but because he was a good player he eventually disregarded everything else and just played,” stated brother Julius who also saw success at Howard on the football field in the prestigious position of head drum major of the Howard marching band.
But by the eighth grade at Alton Park Junior High, football and basketball had replaced baseball as Reggie’s main athletic focus and his journey to the college and pro football halls of fame was under way.
His all-state days at Howard drew the attention of big-time college coaches with Tennessee the Reggie White Lottery winner.
But his days as a Vol almost ended prematurely.
White and Howard teammate Charles Morgan signed with Tennessee as a package deal, but Morgan decided to leave UT after a couple of years and White was not far behind.
But White’s mom nearly struck the fear of the Lord into her son and kept him on the straight and narrow.
“I told Reggie to get on his knees and pray to the Lord for guidance and if he decided to leave UT and come home then I would take things into my own hands and chase him all the way back to Knoxville with a broom handle,” Mrs. Collier said with a laugh.
Needless to say Reggie made the correct decision 30 plus years ago and his impact and legacy on the football field and in communities from Chattanooga to various NFL cities makes this Mother’s Day Weekend a special one for his mom.
contact B.B. Branton at William.firstname.lastname@example.org