Neenah native directed feature film starring White
Former Packer strived to build better world for children
By Steve Wideman
Post-Crescent staff writer
Reggie’s Railroad, a dream of transporting inner-city children past life’s hills and valleys, died Sunday along with its chief inspiration, former Green Bay Packers great Reggie White.
The idea for a children’s television program was born years ago when White had a locomotive at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay painted in Packers green and gold, said Paul McKellips.
McKellips is a Neenah native who directed White in the 1996 film “Reggie’s Prayer.” In the film, White portrayed a frustrated professional football player who retired and went on to coach and mentor high school youths.
“Reggie’s Railroad was to be a combination of Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers set around a railroad motif and trains. It was really an inspirational idea targeted at urban youth,” said McKellips, now a broadcast journalist in the Washington, D.C., area.
“Reggie had put the idea on a back burner the past 18 months as he studied Hebrew and the roots of his faith. He was quite content right now to watch his own kids grow.”
Like most Packers fans, McKellips said he was stunned to learn of White’s death Sunday at his home in Huntersville, N.C.
“It was a complete shock. I had just talked to Reggie a few days ago to give him birthday wishes,” McKellips said. White turned 43 on Dec. 19.
McKellips, who met White in November 1995 and at one time was a business partner with him in Reggie White Studio in Denver, said White’s talk of establishing Reggie’s Railroad pointed to his priorities in life.
“There were so many things more important to Reggie than wins and losses,” McKellips said. “Being a role model to kids in the black community was so important to him. He really wanted to be a hero in that community.”
McKellips said White was “unbelievably playful” and enjoyed seeing children happy. He recalled being in Las Vegas one time with White doing some filming.
“We were staying at Caesar’s Palace. Reggie didn’t gamble, but when he went to the children’s video game room he was in heaven,” McKellips said.
Barbara Schwartz of Neenah recalls White greeting children during the 1990s following Packers practices in Green Bay.
“One time he lifted our son, Jesse, onto his shoulders,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz and her husband, Larry, who serve as ushers at Lambeau Field, met White on numerous occasions.
“A great person was lost on Sunday,” Barbara Schwartz said.
“People should follow his examples, his integrity, his hope and faith.”
McKellips said White was a person whose reputation remained intact long after he left football.
“In many of our numerous conversations over the years, longevity was something he planned on,” McKellips said.
“He planned on living a long, prosperous life. He lived his life in a righteous way.
“Reggie would have been the last person to shed a tear for him.”
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