Former Detroit Lions defensive back William White died late last week at the age of 56 after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a sickness named after the baseball player who was diagnosed with it.
White played college football at Ohio State University before being selected in the fourth round of the 1988 NFL draft by Detroit, where he played six seasons. White later went on to play three seasons with Kansas City Chiefs and two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
“We share in the sadness felt today throughout the NFL community following the news of William White’s passing,” the team tweeted. “Drafted by the Lions in the 4th round of the 1988 Draft out of Ohio State, White played 6 seasons in Detroit (1988-1993) & appeared in 95 games (79 starts) for the club.”
Chris Spielman, Lions Special Assistant to President/CEO and Chairperson, remembered White in a touching statement posted to the team’s Twitter account.
“I loved William. We share experiences of joy and sorrow on and off the field. He was and always will be my brother,” Spielman said. “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’s son, Brendon White, paid tribute to his dad online with a statement, writing: “I love you Dad! Keep watching down on us I know you gonna watch over and protect us. I promise with all my heart you’ll see me in a NFL jersey as we promised each other! We love and miss you! I promise to make you proud. U always taught me no one or thing determines my success.”
I love you Dad! Keep watching down on us I know you gonna watch over and protect us. I promise with all my heart you’ll see me in a NFL jersey as we promised each other! We love and miss you! I promise to make you proud. U always taught me no one or thing determines my success https://t.co/pZriIfRGbv
— Brendon White (@therealestbw0) July 29, 2022
“When I heard about his diagnosis years ago I was in shock,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit wrote on Twitter. “He fought it like you’d expect, with uncommon valor. Known his family for many years-my thoughts and prayers to Nikol, their children, and the rest of the White family. So sorry for your loss.”
ALS is a rare neurodegenerative disease that damages nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that are responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movements, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The disease worsens over time in those afflicted with it, and there are no cures or treatments available to slow down how fast patients deteriorate.