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OBITUARIES / Dwight White, 1949 - 2008

Defensive end played on four Pittsburgh Steelers title teams

June 07, 2008|From the Associated Press

Dwight White, the Steel Curtain defensive end known as "Mad Dog" who helped lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s, died Friday. He was 58.

The Steelers said White died at a Pittsburgh hospital. The cause was not disclosed. The team said White was released from the hospital after back surgery, but was readmitted with complications.

White is the second member of the original four-man Steel Curtain to die this year. Defensive tackle Ernie Holmes died Jan. 17 in a car accident in Texas.

White, a two-time Pro Bowl player, was best known for leaving his hospital bed to play in the Steelers' first Super Bowl victory, 16-6 over the Minnesota Vikings after the 1974 season. He lost 18 pounds after being diagnosed with pneumonia and a lung infection, yet played nearly the entire game in cold, wet conditions at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

White made three tackles for no yards as the Vikings ran seven of their first eight running plays his way and went on to finish with only 17 yards rushing on 21 attempts. White also accounted for the only points of the first half when he sacked Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton in the end zone for a safety.

White, a former player at East Texas State (now Texas A&M University-Commerce), gained his nickname because of his intensity. He often said that playing on the defensive line was like having "a dog's life."

Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney said that inner drive was the reason the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder could play so well only hours after being hospitalized.

"He played with a relentlessness that led us to four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s," Rooney said in a statement. "Dwight will be remembered by those who knew him even more for being a wonderful and caring person."

White's death follows a trend in which former Steelers players have died at an uncommon rate. At least 38 former Steelers players have died since 2000, with 17 of them 59 or younger, as was White.

According to a Los Angeles Times survey in 2006, one-fifth of the former NFL players from the 1970s and 1980s who died through that year were former Steelers.

White was born July 30, 1949, in Hampton, Va., the oldest of three children, and raised in Dallas. He earned a bachelor's degree in history at East Texas State and became a fourth-round draft pick for the Steelers in 1971.

White made his first Pro Bowl in 1972, playing on a Steelers defensive line that also featured Hall of Famer "Mean" Joe Greene and defensive end L.C. Greenwood.

White repeated as a Pro Bowl selection in 1973 and racked up 46 sacks from 1971-80. He had 33 1/2 sacks from 1972-75, with three in the Steelers' 21-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl following the 1975 season.

White retired after the 1980 season -- one of the first players from the Steelers' Super Bowl teams to do so -- and became a prominent stockbroker in Pittsburgh and one of the most successful former Steelers in the business world.

Most recently, he was senior managing director of public finance for Mesirow Financial in Pittsburgh. Before that, he was a partner and principal operator of the Pittsburgh office of W.R. Lazard & Co., an investment banking firm.

White, who was involved in numerous community events and charity activities, was chairman of the Pennsylvania Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Survivors include his wife, Karen, and a daughter, Stacey.

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