He was a midget football legend. His number resides in retirement at Lima Senior. He was a starter in the first game of his freshman season at Ohio State.

He was probably underrated in the 1988 NFL Draft when he was selected in the fourth round, but played 11 years in the pros and finished his career playing in the Super Bowl in his final game.

William White, who died Thursday at 56 after a six-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, was all of that and more.

And even in the time he had left after being diagnosed with this dreaded disease, he was exceptional. Exceptional in the way he handled it above all else.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes a person to gradually lose the ability to control their muscles. There is no remedy.

“When there was no cure, I said, ‘It’s all in God’s hands,'” White said in a 2018 video from Ohio State to promote ALS research. .

Former OSU quarterback Greg Frey, a teammate of White’s in 1986 and 1987, recognized that attitude when he saw a dramatic difference in White’s physical appearance, but nothing else seemed different. recently.

“It’s a horrible disease. But close your eyes and it’s William,” Frey said of his last encounter with White.

White’s football journey began as a 9-year-old starter on a team of mostly 10- and 11-year-olds for the Lima Midget League Bulldogs who went undefeated for four straight years.

In an article in The Lima News before White played for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1999 Super Bowl, midget league teammate Reverend B. Lamont Monford said, “He was great even at the 9 years old. We knew then that he was a man among boys.

White started three years at Lima Senior and rushed for 1,444 yards as a senior for the Spartans.

“Every time he touched the ball in high school was special,” former Lima Senior coach Barry Blackstone said on Friday.

“He knew what he wanted and he came from a big family. William was obviously very bright, very disciplined and a great athlete. It’s a combination that’s rare. He always treated people well. was a special guy.

“We had lunch two weeks ago and I knew what was going to happen, unfortunately. He was very special to me,” he said.

Ohio State and Michigan were White’s first two picks when recruited. He signed up with the Buckeyes during his senior basketball season.

In his four years as a starting cornerback at OSU, White had 16 career interceptions. He had five interceptions as a senior and had three against West Virginia that year. He was a first-team All-Big Ten in 1987 and served as team captain.

Ohio State won the Big Ten championships in 1984 and 1986 and defeated Michigan in 1984 and 1987.

Frey said: “As a rookie I got to play quarterback for the scout team and I faced him every day in the first team defense. His personality just stood out. He was so full of energy.

“He liked to talk a lot of smack. But he was also a very cerebral guy who was very intelligent. He just had a fun spirit. He had such a big smile, always full of energy. He was a great guy to be around and I have so much respect for him. What a great guy,” he said.

The Detroit Lions selected White in the fourth round of the 1988 NFL Draft. He played six seasons for the Lions before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. He played three years for the Chiefs and finished his career with two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

He had five interceptions in 1990 and four in 1992 for the Lions and finished his professional career with 20 interceptions.

White is survived by his wife, Nikol, sons William Jr. and Brendon, and daughter Brea. Brendon played three years of football at Ohio State before moving to Rutgers.

Some other reactions to White’s passing:

In a statement, Chris Spielman, a teammate of Ohio State and Detroit the Lions: “I loved Guillaume. We shared experiences of joy and pain on and off the pitch. He was and always will be my brother… I can’t wait to see him again when he is free from ALS. May the peace of God rests on his family.

Ron, former Lima Senior men’s basketball coach Niekamp“He was a hell of a basketball player as well as a great footballer. I think William has to be considered one of Lima and Lima Senior’s all-time greats.

“I remember him as a carefree high school student who loved to play sports, was very competitive, wanted to be a better player and a better person. It’s a sad story but I have a lot of good memories of him and his teammates and those great games from that time.

On Twitter, former Lima Senior soccer coach Andre Griffin: He was one of the greatest guys I know. When I was the head coach of Lima Senior, he was one of my biggest supporters. You will be missed by the world my big brother. Lots of love to the white family. We have lost a legend.

Mike, former senior soccer coach of Lima Tear down: “My first year coaching Lima Senior, William came back and spoke to all my future college freshman football players. His talk was about school, grades and being good representatives of your family and your school.

Chris Spielman presents his honorary jacket to former Ohio State and Detroit Lions teammate William White at halftime of an Oct. 31, 2021, game in Detroit, when Spielman was inducted as a member of the “Pride of the Lions” franchise.

Lima Senior graduate William White started as a cornerback all four seasons he played for Ohio State.

Contact Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.