Pass-rushing great, Hall of Famer Kevin Greene dead at 58

Pass-rushing great Hall of Famer Kevin Greene dead at 58

A blur of a blonde mane, ferocious intention and tenacity off the edge, Kevin Greene’s historic levels of success came more from determination and passion for the game than any otherworldly physical attributes.

He was a character for the autumns, who roared when he spoke and with his play, grinned ear to ear and had wide eyes when a quarterback was near.

One of the most prolific pass rushers to ever grace the gridiron, Greene, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, died Monday. He was just 58.

No cause of death has been announced.

A class of 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Greene’s 15-season NFL career was highlighted by 160 sacks, which stands as the third-highest total in league lore. “The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Kevin Greene,” Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said in a statement. “I regarded him as a personal friend and a true Hall of Famer in every sense. He possessed the most incredible can-do attitude of anyone I ever met. He was a great player, but more than that, he was a great man. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kevin’s wife, Tara, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Kevin’s memory.”

Upon a storied and successful NFL run, Greene’s 15 seasons saw him gather the aforementioned 160 sacks, which trail only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198). Greene produced an eye-popping 10 double-digit sack seasons that led to five Pro Bowls, two All-Pro selections and a spot on the Hall of Fame’s All-1990s Team.

Greene’s NFL career began with eight seasons in the Rams organizations after he was selected in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL Draft, but he would make an impact with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers — playing three seasons apiece — as well. He also played a season with the San Francisco 49ers.

“We lost an amazing player and person this morning with the passing of Kevin Greene. His sudden death is a shock to us all as he was a close friend and teammate to so many people in the Steelers family,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement. “When Kevin came to the Steelers in 1993 he had an immediate impact. Paired with Greg Lloyd, Kevin and Greg led a defense that became known as Blitzburgh and went on to play in Super Bowl XXX. Kevin’s energy and enthusiasm were inspiring for our team as well as our fans.

“My condolences go out to Kevin’s wife, Tara, their children and the entire Greene family in this most difficult time. They will always be members of the Steelers family and in our thoughts and prayers.”

A true success story driven by resolve, Greene was a walk-on at Auburn prior prior to joining the Rams, where the future Hall of Famer didn’t start a game until his fourth NFL season in 1988, when he registered 16.5 sacks — a career-high that he matched the very next season.

In 1993, Greene joined the Steelers and played a huge role in Pittsburgh’s eventual run to Super Bowl XXX, where the Steelers fell to the Cowboys. He moved on to the Panthers to rejoin head coach Dom Capers, who had been his defensive coordinator previously for two seasons in Pittsburgh, blossoming in the 3-4 scheme.

Greene’s greatness came into view as his career wore on, a sack master who terrorized opposing quarterbacks and twice led the league in sacks, consistent in the chaos he created in the backfield no matter his age.

Greene had seven seasons with double-digit sacks at 30 or older, which tied Smith for the most all-time, and remains the only player with double-digit sacks for four teams. His final year of 1999 saw him tally 12 sacks for the Panthers as he, indeed, went out with a roar.

Loud, physical and aggressive, Greene dabbled in pro wrestling, as well, joining the World Championship Wrestling ranks while he was still an active NFL player. He was larger than life, loud in all that he did in the arena.

He would also collect a Super Bowl title as a linebackers coach with the Packers.

He played with a smile for love of the game and for love of the havoc of which he wreaked. He was one of the NFL’s greatest wild men.

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