Football 101: No. 4, Reggie White
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You might already know this, but it’s worth pointing out again: Bruce Smith, not Reggie White, has the all-time NFL record for sacks.
All-time sack leaders (official)
Bruce Smith, 200
Reggie White, 198
Kevin Greene, 160
Julius Peppers, 159.5
Chris Doleman, 150.5
I say “official” because the NFL has only officially counted sacks since 1982. There have been intrepid researchers who have gone back and meticulously counted sacks going all the way back to 1960, and when you do that, Deacon Jones joins the party (173.5 unofficial sacks), and so do Jack Youngblood and Alan Page and Lawrence Taylor, whose first season’s sacks do not officially count (even though he’s probably one of the reasons the sack became an official stat in the first place).
Anyway, I bring this up because officially and unofficially, Reggie White has 198 sacks. And this is because nobody counts the 23.5 sacks he had in the United States Football League. As football historian Brad Oremland points out, the USFL was a major league when Bruce Smith played. The league was loaded with past Pro Bowlers and future stars; there were five Pro Football Hall of Famers in the USFL in White’s two seasons (Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Gary Zimmerman, Sam Mills and White himself) and several others with near-Hall of Fame pedigrees, including Nate Newton, Frank Minnifield, Gary Clark, Mel Gray, Bart Oates and, yes, everybody’s favorite vampire vs. werewolf analyst, Herschel Walker.
With those 23.5 USFL sacks, Reggie White has 221.5 sacks, 10% ahead of every other sacker in the history of the game.
Even if you don’t buy the value of the USFL, it goes without saying that if White had gone directly to the NFL, he still would have put the record where it’s unlikely that anyone would ever touch it. Put it this way: Reggie White played 121 games for the Philadelphia Eagles. He had 124 sacks in those games. There’s never been anything like it.
And here’s the thing: