Kevin Greene will be remembered for his long blond hair, his charisma, and the havoc he created for opposing quarterbacks.
The Hall of Fame linebacker, considered one of the fiercest pass rushers in NFL history, died Monday, it was confirmed by the family and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was 58.
No cause of death was given.
“I regarded him as a personal friend and a true Hall of Famer in every sense,” Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement Monday. “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.”
A two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, Greene finished his 15-year NFL career with 160 sacks, which ranks third in league history behind only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198). He also had 23 forced fumbles and five interceptions.
He played for Los Angeles Rams (1985–1992), Pittsburgh Steelers (1993–1995), Carolina Panthers (1996, 1998-99) and San Francisco 49ers (1997). He was All-Pro in 1994 and 1996.
Greene, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, had 14 or more sacks in three different seasons, including twice with the Panthers late in his career. He also coached for the Packers and Jets after his retirement.
Former Panthers general manager Bill Polian said Greene was a person exceptionally devoted to his family, his craft as a football player and the military, where he earned the rank of captain and completed airborne training at Fort Benning to become a paratrooper.
Polian said Greene had an exceptional ability to escape blockers.
“He was a self-made technician and as good as anyone who has ever played the game in terms of technique,” Polian said. “And because he was undersized, grit played a tremendous role in his success.”
Greene would have agreed with that assessment.
“I wasn’t the biggest (and) I wasn’t fastest,” Greene once said. “But as long as you have a motor, you have heart … that will overcome any physical limitations.”
Greene regularly studied film to search for opponents’ weaknesses.
“I figured out how to pass rush,” Greene said. “I figured out how to put a guy, an offensive tackle three to four inches taller, 80 pounds heavier, put him in a position of failure, and I did that.”
Dom Capers, who coached Greene in Pittsburgh and Carolina, said Greene “had such a great passion for the game.”
“He had an infectious personality,” Capers said. “He influenced everybody that he was around. Everyone had a tremendous amount of respect for him because he not only produced as a player, but because as good of a player as he was, he was an even better person.”
Steelers President Art Rooney II noted the effect Greene had on the team.
“We lost an amazing player and person this morning with the passing of Kevin Greene,” Rooney said. “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.
Baker said the Hall of Fame flag “will be flown at half-staff in Kevin’s memory.”