To the cheers and chants of “Reggie,” the “Minister of Defense” now has his name above the NFL’s most famous cathedral.
The Green Bay Packers retired the fifth number in club history -- Reggie White’s No. 92 -- at halftime of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.
“He gave himself to Green Bay and Green Bay showed its love to him and his family,” said White’s widow, Sara. “Because of the patience of the Green Bay fans for so many years, Reggie helped bring a Super Bowl title.”
White’s number joined those of wide receiver Don Hutson (14), fullback Tony Canadeo (3), quarterback Bart Starr (15) and linebacker Ray Nitschke (66) in a stirring ceremony that included former general manager Ron Wolf, who brought White to Green Bay, and White’s children, Jecolia and Jeremy.
White, who suffered from sleep apnea and sarcoidosis, died last December in Cornelius, N.C., at age 43.
The number is the first retired since Nitschke received the honor 22 years ago. It’s also the first posthumously awarded in club history.
White, a defensive end, helped lead the Packers to their first championship since 1967 when they defeated the New England Patriots, 35-21, in 1996.
White played 15 seasons with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina. He retired after the 2000 season as the NFL sack 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.
The Packers have had the best record in the NFL since White joined the franchise, 127-66 in 12-plus seasons.
Green Bay is the only team to finish .500 or above in every one of those seasons.
“Today, we celebrate life,” Sara White said. “A man who gave his life [to others] since the time I met him at the age of 16. I knew he would be special.”
Jecolia, 17 and a high school senior pursuing a music career, sang the national anthem wearing her father’s jersey.
Hundreds of fans also wore No. 92 and received a commemorative figurine of White.
“We’re overwhelmed with this event,” Sara White said. “Thank you with all of our hearts.”
Some key milestones were reached Sunday.
Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre joined Dan Marino and John Elway with 50,000 yards passing.
San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson ran for a 16-yard touchdown against Denver to set an NFL record with a rushing touchdown in 14 consecutive games
Jacksonville receiver Jimmy Smith became the 12th player in NFL history to catch 800 passes.
Philadelphia receiver Terrell Owens went over 10,000 yards receiving, making him the 22nd player in NFL history to reach that mark.
Sunday’s key injuries:
Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick had to be replaced twice during a 21-18 loss at Seattle because he felt his left leg cramping.
Jacksonville’s Byron Leftwich appeared to injure his left leg as he was bent over backward late in Sunday’s 10-3 loss at Indianapolis, but returned with 1:44 remaining. Leftwich was in obvious pain as he limped from play to play on the Jaguars’ final drive and was taken for X-rays after the game.
Jaguar safety Donovin Darius left the game because of a sprained left knee. Coach Jack Del Rio said the extent of Darius’ knee injury was unknown.
Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth sprained his left knee at the end of the third quarter against Baltimore and had to be carted off the field.
At Houston, Texan defensive end Gary Walker separated his left shoulder and is out indefinitely.