Greatness only comes along every so often. When it does, perhaps the most difficult task is recognizing just how special someone truly is.
With the late Reggie White, however, everyone who knew him or even came in contact with him could truly sense his greatness. Sure, people will always remember White chasing down quarterbacks, but the best part of his legacy begins and ends with the kind of life he led off the gridiron.
Clearly, Reggie White made his mark on the city of Green Bay and their fans, and on Sunday, the Packers honored him for those accomplishments. In a halftime ceremony, White's widow, Sara, and two children, Jeremy and Jecolia, were on hand for a video dedication and the unveiling of the number 92 along the upper wall in the north end zone at Lambeau Field.
White's number will never be worn again for the Green Bay Packers, which certainly puts him in some elite company. Only Don Hutson, Tony Canadeo, Bart Starr and Ray Nitschke have previously had their numbers retired.
White is a sure bet to make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his accolades are far too many to list. What set him apart as a Packer is the fact that he helped bring the Super Bowl Trophy back to Green Bay in 1997 and that he leads the organization in all-time sacks with 68 1/2.
Reggie White was a legend in every sense of the word and many believe that he was the all-time best to ever play defensive end. What he did to opposing offensive linemen was nothing short of breathtaking. He made it a habit to throw a 300-pound man to the ground as if he were a rag doll, and he always had a penchant for coming up with a key sack when the game was on the line.
Just as they were of him, Reggie undoubtedly would have been proud of his family on this day as well. His daughter Jecolia sang the national anthem before the game and his son Jeremy also took part in the celebration. During halftime, Bob Harlan, the Packers president and CEO, and former long time general manager, Ron Wolf, who signed White to his contract in 1993, walked arm in arm with Sara White out onto the field.
Clearly, Sara was touched by the day's events.
"Today we celebrate the life of a man who gave his life -- since the time I met him at the age of sixteen, I knew that he would be special," she said. "He gave himself to Green Bay and Green Bay showed its love to him and our family.
And because of the patience of the Green Bay fans for so many years, Reggie helped bring the Super Bowl Title, the character of the Packers and the integrity of the city back home to Green Bay, and we are just honored...Jeremy, Jecolia and myself are overwhelmed with this event and we thank you with all of our hearts."
Brett Favre was one reason why White came to Green Bay and the quarterback looked back last week at some great times he shared with his friend and teammate.
"There's not a better teacher or mentor out there than Reggie White on and off the field," Favre explained. "He just always practiced a certain way...The way he carried himself in the locker room. Obviously, the way he played, there hasn't been anyone like him."
It's not a stretch to say that a part of White still lives in Favre.
"One of the best things to ever happen to my career is getting the opportunity to play with Reggie White," Favre said. "I truly mean that and I think the way I handle myself today -- the fun I try to bring to this game and the intensity I try to bring not only in the games, but to practice and the meetings -- it's because of Reggie White. There's no doubt about it. What a great player and it's an honor to say I played with Reggie White."
Coined the "Minister of Defense," White certainly was a very spiritual man. In a day and age where many athletes are afraid to share their beliefs, White was just the opposite.
Favre will never forget the prayers White led at midfield after games.
"There's only one person in my lifetime on or off the field that I think commanded the respect that Reggie White did," Favre said. "And that was a good example.
He could get anyone to kneel in prayer with him at any time, win or lose. It never mattered to Reggie the results of the game. He always had time for anyone regardless of situations or circumstances in his life."
Even those who didn't play with Reggie White are aware of his significance to society and to football.
Center Scott Wells, who attended the same college as White (Tennessee), marveled at what White meant to the university.
"He's a legend around there as well," Wells said. "Just the way he came in and just dominated early on is a key factor. In college, to be able to step into the SEC (Southeastern Conference) and dominate early as a defensive lineman was huge.
"He's a legend for a lot of defensive linemen that come through there and offensive linemen respect him because we have to go against guys that aspired to be as good as he was."
Unfortunately for the Packers they couldn't secure the win against the Browns Sunday, but it still was a special way to honor such a legend.
"It doesn't make it any better or worse," Ahman Green said of the loss. "It was a great day to celebrate what he did for the Packers and in his NFL career. He's a great man and I got to meet him a few times and hung out with him. I really didn't get to know him, but for the most part, the time that I had with him, I got to see a little bit of what he brought to the Packers and to the city."
Part of what White brought was sacks, leadership and stardom, but what he truly meant to the Green Bay Packers franchise is indescribable and unforgettable.
And that's what greatness is all about.