Safety William White, who spent 11 seasons in the NFL, died at 56 after a battle with ALS, the Detroit Lions announced Thursday.
Drafted out of Ohio State in 1988, White spent his first six seasons in Detroit.
“I loved William,” said Lions special assistant to president/CEO Chris Spielman, a former teammate of White’s. “We shared experiences of joy and sorrow on and off the field. He was and always will be my brother. I am forever grateful for the special moment last year when he was able to be by my side during the Pride of the Lions ceremony at Ford Field. I can’t wait to see him again when he will be free from ALS. May God’s peace rest upon his family.”
White intercepted 20 passes in his career, including a career-high five in 1990 for the Lions. He spent three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and then his final two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
In his final season, White helped the Falcons win their NFC title and appeared in Super Bowl XXXIII. In the NFC divisional playoff, White picked off two Steve Young passes in the fourth quarter to help Atlanta hold onto a 20-18 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
ESPN analyst and former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit also paid tribute to White, tweeting that he fought his battle with “uncommon valor.”
White is survived by his wife, Nikol, and children William Jr., Brendon and Brea. Brendon was a safety at Ohio State before transferring to Rutgers.
In 2018, White told Eleven Warriors, an independent Ohio State football site, that he had no regrets playing football.
“It may have something to do with it, but hey, it don’t matter,” he said. “If I knew I would have got this, I would have still played the game, because I loved it, and smacking people in the mouth was fun to me.
“I’m not allowed to say that now,” White said with a laugh, “but hey, that’s why God made sure I was born in ‘66 instead of ‘86.”