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Jeremy White: A football legend's son

Part 1 of 2

Mike Vivenzio / Reporter

"Swing low, sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home."

Suppose you are the son of a legend.  Suppose your father is bigger than the game, a figure that will transcend generations.  Suppose your father was also a deeply spiritual individual as well as a minister.

Now suppose this legend, your father, has gone home.

Relaxed and laid back in an easy chair, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, Jeremy White talks about what it was like growing up with a man who commanded the attention of a room just by smiling. You would think that being the son a football legend would give you an edge, an attitude or a slight arrogance. But Jeremy is as down to earth a person as there comes and at 6 feet 2 inches, 210 pounds he is a gentle young man, with the same commanding smile as his father.

Jeremy White was born in Memphis, Tenn., on May 12, 1986, the first son of Reginald Howard White and Sarah Felicia White.  Life for Jeremy was "normal."

"When (Reggie White) was in the house, he was just dad," Jeremy recalls. "We had to share him a lot because of football and because he was a preacher.  In fact, I'm just realizing how good he was the last few years."

Jeremy recalls the hard times growing up, with Reggie as his dad.

"The time when he started changing his religious beliefs was the hardest," Jeremy said.  "We were taught one thing our whole lives and now all of sudden we had to change overnight.  The core beliefs that we held were right, but the little details, Dad said, needed to be changed.  He didn't let us move into it, we had to go at his pace."

Reggie White was a preacher and in 1998 he started to dive deeper into his faith and began to learn Hebrew, when Jeremy was in the 10th grade, in order to translate the Bible.  It was at this time that Reggie started to find discrepancies in the faith, such as the timing of Christmas.

"While we still believe in the birth of Jesus, we all of sudden stopped celebrating Christmas," he said.

Jeremy resented his father during the learning of Hebrew because Reggie pushed his family to move through it quickly.

"He sensed the problem and made us talk about it," Jeremy said.  It was that talk that brought Jeremy the closest he had ever been to his father.  "I hated it at first, but I realized how grounded it made me.

 It helped me defend my faith."

 Jeremy recalled a time when the family was vacationing in Myrtle Beach.

"We were always used to people coming up to him and asking for an autograph or a picture, but one time I went into a magic shop and bought one of those metal buzzers that you put on your hand.  Dad asked me if he could borrow and he put it on and just waited.  The next guy who came up was like 'Oh, man, Reggie White,' and went to shake his hand, so Dad shook his hand and buzzed him. The guy was shocked, but Dad gave him an autograph."

Jeremy had seen a transformation in his communication with his father since leaving for college, but all that has changed.

"He was the only person I could talk to about a lot of things, and now I can't do that, and that is the hardest part of not having him around," Jeremy said.  "It's weird because in high school when I would call home, I would ask to talk to Mom, and when Dad answered and Mom wasn't home, I would just hang up and not talk to my dad. But ever since we had that talk and I came to college, I would call home just to talk to my dad."

Growing up, Reggie was always trying to teach his children about life, love and faith.

"The greatest thing he ever taught me was one day I came home, I was in a situation that I wanted to tell him about and all he said to me was, 'Son, as long as you're happy, I'm good.'  He always told me he was proud of me and that he loved me but saying that, to me, meant that no matter what he believed in me and any decisions that I would make, he believed in."

If you look around Jeremy's room, you will not find any pictures of his dad.  You have to look in his closest to find his dad's jersey and his drawer to find the one picture he keeps.  It's a picture of the family, his mom, sister and he all wearing Reggie's jersey, and Reggie White laying down, dressed in his Sunday best.

"The reason I don't put it up is because it is really easy for me to get caught up looking at it and start to cry," Jeremy said.

Even though his father is not here, Jeremy still talks to his dad all the time.  "I find myself, even when I'm praying, specifically saying that I'm not talking to God, I'm talking to him.  I still think he is with me."  Jeremy is not one to try and look for signs in the world that his dad is still here, but there was one occasion that stuck out in his mind.

"Last semester I took a Hebrew class. I was writing on the board in Hebrew and took a picture of it to show my mom what I had done.  When I took the picture and looked at it, there looked to be an eye in the picture, behind the blackboard. I took another picture right away and it was gone."  If you look at the picture you can definitely see something in the background, an eye, almost omni-present.

The one thing Jeremy would tell his dad if were here today is that he has a girlfriend.

 "He would be real happy to see that I have somebody who is good for me," Jeremy said.  The second thing I would tell him is that he needed to go home and take care of his daughter because she misses him more than I do."

Reggie White has gone home but his deeply rooted faith and the faith he helped ground his family with, keeps him here as well, in the minds and in the hearts of those who loved him and those who always will.

Contact Mike Vivenzio at pendulum@elon.edu or 278-7247.

Jeremy White

Justin Hite / Photographer

Sophomore Jeremy White keeps only one picture of his dad, hidden away in his desk drawer.