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A Football Life: Must-See TV

Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life airs tonight at 10 on NFL Network (with repeats on Friday, 4 p.m.; Saturday at 9 a.m.; Wednesday, October 5 at 4 p.m.) and it is must-see television for Eagles fans and for anyone who wants to see a moving tribute about two men who were as drastically different as two men can be, but at the same time were little boys in big, brawny football players' bodies.

It is a wonderful story, chronicling the years leading both White and Brown to the Eagles, their times together in Philadelphia and, ultimately, the premature deaths that ended lives when both had so much more to give to the world around them.

"There was a wild side to Jerome, and Reggie was constantly trying to get him to settle down," said former Eagles defensive coordinator Jeff Fisher.

At times both tear-jerking and uplifting, *Reggie White & Jerome Brown: A Football Life *brings back so many memories. NFL Films shows rare, behind-the-scenes footage of the Eagles locker room at Veterans Stadium and focuses on interviews from former Eagles and those around the NFL who played with and against both White and Brown.

It is former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, a teammate of Brown's at the University of Miami, who early in the show sums up the impact Brown had on the field: "Jerome Brown put the fear in football players."

Former Eagles tight end Keith Jackson, former Eagles linebacker Garry Cobb and former Eagles defensive tackle Mike Golic talk throughout what both men were like as teammates and as friends and how shocking and devastating their deaths were. Brown died in 1992 when the car he was driving -- too fast on a slick country road in his hometown of Brooksville, FL with his nephew, Gus, a victim as well -- went out of control and crashed. Brown was 27.

White passed away suddenly on December 26, 2004 after 15 NFL seasons, a lifetime of spreading the word about Christian faith and an unmistakable shadow he cast on everyone he met.

Both personalities were larger than life, and they both epitomized the Eagles of the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s. White became an Eagle after a brief stint in the USFL and he was instantly a star. Brown was a first-round draft pick in 1987 from the U, and he was a force inside.

The defense was called Buddy Ball, after, of course, head coach Buddy Ryan. Ryan inspired the defense to play with a wrecking-ball style, and there are great shots in the show of the "House of Pain" game in Houston on December 2, 1991 -- "You bring the house, we'll bring the pain!," said Brown at the time -- when the Eagles beat the Oilers at the Astrodome, and of the "Body Bag Game" against Washington in 1990, a 28-14 Eagles win, when a dozen Redskins left the game with injuries.

"Buddy Ryan let personality mix with talent and it became greatness," said Simms.

White and Brown were the merry pranksters of the Eagles locker room and they were given free reign by Ryan. Brown, for instance, was permitted to board the team charter flights to road games without wearing a necktie, a personal rebellion he had dating back to his days as a little boy in Brooksville. At his funeral, his Eagles teammates took off their ties and laid it on his casket, a touching moment that inspires sniffles and choked-up tears in the piece.

White was married to the lovely Sara and was the ultimate family man who was the practical joker on the team. He was the master of impersonations and corny jokes and he was the one who sprayed the shaving cream on the phone receiver and told you an urgent call had just come in and you had to take it.

Along the way in this tapestry down memory lane, we hear from former Eagles Owner Norman Braman and general manager Harry Gamble about White's departure from Philadelphia. Braman insists the Eagles offered White $15 million to remain an Eagle. Sara White says there was no offer made, and that if *any *offer had been made, White would have stayed.

"He wanted to stay in Philadelphia," she says. "He loved it there."

That is one of the painful segments of the special. Free agency tore apart the Eagles in the early 1990s and they didn't recover until Braman sold the franchise to Jeffrey Lurie. The city rallied behind White and railed against Braman. Then White signed in Green Bay and won a Super Bowl with the Packers.

Brown would be 46 years of age now, and would have been a mirthful man filled with life and laughter and love. White would be well into his post-football life, perhaps, as it was suggested by former Giants quarterback Phil Simms -- who, along with former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, provided great insight and candor to the show -- the head of the Players Association. That is how much respect White had among his peers, among those who had the great fortune to meet him.

Please take the time tonight to watch a brilliant tribute to a pair of outstanding football players that we came to love, to cherish, to lose and to mourn. The footage from the period of time when they led a ferocious Eagles defense is priceless. The games, the scenes, the interviews ... all of it is chilling, a reminder of just how long this franchise has been chasing a Super Bowl and how quickly life can be taken away.

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