KEVIN GREENE (early April, 2006)
What are you up to these days?
I’m down in Florida. I have my Florida broker’s license and I’m dabbling in real estate.
Do you like it?
It’s OK. It’s given me something to do. I was blessed to play 15 years in the league, and I don’t hurt for nothing or want for anything, need nothing, but I do miss knocking the snot out of Jim Kelly on Monday Night Football in Three Rivers Stadium, tearing Thurman Thomas a new one. But, you know, I miss that. I miss the adrenaline and the passion of football, and the fans. So do I like real estate? Does that answer your question?
Are you a golfer?
I’ll play at a charity event every once in a while. I’ve had some friends call me to do different functions. Am I eaten up by golf? By no means.
How's your family?
My family’s fine. Tara is my wife of 14 years. My son Gavin is 9 and my little girl Gabby is 7.
Great isn’t it?
It’s awesome, by far the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Being a dad makes everything else pale in comparison.
Able to stay home?
I do stay home. I’m blessed in that I can pretty much call my hours and am able to spend time with kids, something many dads aren’t able to do and I’m very grateful for that.
Do you coach?
When my son wants to be involved in football, basketball, baseball, soccer, I will be a coach on that team. Right now, my son is into taekwondo, so I haven’t coached in a year or so because of that.
What about pro coaching?
At this point I’ve spent time with three different teams at three different training camps. I spent three weeks with the Rams about three years ago, a couple weeks with Pittsburgh, and then this past year about eight or nine days with the Cincinnati Bengals. I enjoy it. It was fun working with the linebackers and pass-rushers. I could see myself doing that and enjoying it, but I can’t see myself marrying a team at this point in my life; maybe later, when my kids are a little bit older. Maybe a coach somewhere would give me an opportunity, but right now you’d have to marry the program and right now I can’t see myself doing that.
Why did you go to those camps?
Just to smell football again, just to feel the intensity a little bit, and I think I went to these specific camps specifically to work with a couple individuals. At the first camp I went to specifically work with Grant Wistrom and Leonard Little. I went to Pittsburgh (in 2004) to specifically work with three outside linebackers: Joey Porter, Clark Haggans and Alonzo Jackson. I went to work with the linebackers, but I wanted to work with those guys. I made a call to Coach LeBeau and asked if he’d be interested in me working with his outside backers, the guys coming off the corner and pressuring the passer. He called me back and said 'Come on.' It was something that I wanted to do to be a part of it again. At Cincinnati I was going to work with – and Marvin Lewis and I were talking at his golf tournament – David Pollack from Georgia. He asked and I said 'I’m all over it, I’d love to.' They brought me in for eight or nine days and the Pollack kid held out so I never had a chance to work with him.
Notice those teams’ records?
I don’t think we can assume I turned records around, but I do believe in a little good luck.
Consider yourself a Pittsburgh Steeler?
I played for four teams and that’s a hard question to answer. I spent eight years with the Rams in L.A. and then three in Pittsburgh, three in Carolina and a year with the 49ers. I consider myself an ex-professional football player. I’ll just leave it at that.
Did you root for the Steelers in the recent Super Bowl?
Oh, I was all over it. I was into it. Obviously I was pulling for them. Part of my heart bleeds black and gold. The memories I have of playing in Three Rivers Stadium, man, and really rolling over people with those great defenses. It was a magical time. And I will say this, when I look back, the three most magical years of my career were in Pittsburgh.
What stands out about the Super Bowl you played in against Dallas?
The loss. That game will haunt me forever. There are some games you take with you, and I think there’s only one game I’ll take with me and it haunts me for forever and it’ll go with me to my grave and it’s that game. There were two reasons. One, we lost. We lost something I had an opportunity to achieve – the ultimate team championship, and we lost. Winning it all is the only reason I was playing the game. The second reason, on a lesser note, individually I did not play my best game. I’ve had the opportunity to play 15 years and I had some really cool games, where I’m really standing out and people can’t block me and I’m making plays, causing fumbles, recovering fumbles, wreaking havoc, but this game, for unknown reasons, I was just another body in the pile, so to speak. I had two tackles and maybe two, three hits on Aikman. I really hate that of all the games in my career that that game was an average game for me. I never looked at myself as an average player. I always looked at myself as being a guy who could make plays, a playmaker. So that haunts me.
I guess we can blame Neil O'Donnell for that.
You know, he really made only one bad pass and that’s all anyone remembers from that game. He made a mistake and a receiver made another mistake, but Neil’s the person everyone wanted to blame. I’m glad I played the position I played because my mistakes don’t stand out as much as a quarterback’s mistakes. Let me tell you something: It wasn’t one guy. We all lost that game.
What was that wrestling trip all about that week?
It was on our off-day and we could do pretty much do anything on our off-day that we wanted to do. WCW flew me and some fellow Steelers to Vegas and we flew back. It was like a three or four-hour trip. I could either sit around and twiddle my thumbs, bounce off the walls, think about Dallas, or I could go get my mind off of all the things surrounding this game and go to this thing. It was myself, Levon Kirkland, Aerial Solomon, about five of us. We made a quick appearance, did a little wrestling and flew back. I think it was good just to get my mind off the media attention that was coming down the pike. It was just a good mental down time.
You had a lot of fun with the media, didn't you?
You take it as it comes, but I always try to give the media what they want and try to give them my time, but there comes a time when anybody in the limelight has to step back. So the trip up there and the trip back was good just to hang out with Levon and those guys and chill out.
What else stands out about Pittsburgh?
Tara and I just had a wonderful time there. The fans were awesome and really, really nice. If I had my druthers, I would’ve have wanted to retire a Steeler, but things didn’t work out that way and for some reason or other I found myself in Carolina. That being said, I was able to play four years in the league after Pittsburgh and I was able to continue my production. I went to a couple more Pro Bowls. It’s unfortunate that it worked out that way, but things still worked out for me.
Why couldn’t they keep you?
Three of us: Me, Neil and Leon (Searcy). I think the bottom line is that I was going into my 12th year and I’m not sure the powers that be in Pittsburgh thought I had anything left in my tank. I also think that, and I know this because of conversations I had with Bill Cowher, is they wanted to get Jason Gildon in the mix. Coach Cowher wanted me to take him under my wing, so to speak, and teach him, train him, show him how to watch film, but he wanted Jason Gildon to start and he wanted me to be a backup to Jason. At that time, I knew I was still playing well and I knew how I was performing on the field and I knew how people still had trouble blocking me. They hadn’t figured out how to block me yet, either at the point of attack or in the pass rush, and I knew I could still play because people were still really, really struggling to block me, so I couldn’t in my mind, in my 12th year in the league, be a backup. I was a Pro Bowl player and I knew people were still struggling to block me, so I chose to not to be a backup and to finish my career as a starter in Carolina.
Did they ever figure out how to block you?
In my 15th year I think I had 50-some tackles, and 12 sacks in my 14th year. I mean, you tell me? I was 37 and had 12 sacks. Do you think they figured out how to block me? When I left Pittsburgh after the '95 season, and in '96 they still had a hard time with me because I led the league in sacks. In '97 I had 10 sacks with the 49ers and then in '98 I had 15 sacks with the Panthers and in '99 I had 12. I think it was a point where I don’t think there was a team going to pay me based on my productivity. It wasn’t because I was hurt that I retired. It wasn’t because of my age, or the way I felt because of my age. I think it was a case of me saying, 'Look, I’ve got 160 sacks. I did what I wanted to do. I passed Lawrence Taylor as the all-time sacker for linebackers and now I was at a point where people weren’t going to pay me based on my productivity. I could come back for my 16th year and get 12-15 sacks, but what is that worth on the open market? There was no way I could’ve found a team able to pay me fair market value based on productivity. That, I think, is mainly why I retired.
Do you think about the Hall of Fame?
I’ve been on the initial list. I haven’t made the 25 cut yet. I really don’t know why. I know this: I surpassed Lawrence Taylor and we played the same position. I always wanted to be compared, in the Hall of Fame voting process, with Lawrence Taylor because he was the prototypical 3-4 outside backer. That’s the defense I played most of my career. So if I could get numbers similar to, if not better than, the best all-time to play that position, that would surely open up some eyes to get me into Canton, Ohio. Well, I was able to do that. I was able to play three more years than Lawrence Taylor; I was able to get more sacks, fumble recoveries, safeties. And I’m thinking, 'OK, that’s pretty solid for an outside backer in a 3-4 and maybe I should be into this thing.' But I’m kind of languishing in oblivion as far as this Hall of Fame thing, like a lot of other players, like Sam Mills. I think that old warrior should be in there. I was glad to see Harry Carson finally get in there.
Do you need some kind of a publicity agent?
I’ve never been about getting somebody out there to knock on doors and say, ‘Hey ,consider my man Kevin Greene.’ I’m almost 44 and I’m just trying to look at the big picture. If the Hall of Fame voters can’t just look back on the sheer numbers and production of my career, if they can’t look back and say ‘He was productive, one of the most productive linebackers in history.’ If they can’t do that, then I don’t deserve to be in there. I’m holding out hope, but I don’t live my life day after day thinking about it.
What about a pro wrestling career?
I did it for three or four years. I just decided to bow out and continue with my football career. It was a temporary thing where I could have fun, be a little nutcake, you know, which wasn’t much of a reach for me, and just have fun with it.
Weren’t you a natural? Wasn’t it easy money?
I’d be a natural nutcake. Well, it’s probably true, but it’s hard on the body and I was still playing football and that was a bigger breadwinner at the time. I’d also like to bring this to your attention to: I was an Army Reserve captain. I was a paratrooper and come from a long military family. My brother was a Gulf War veteran. I was a tanker, into tanks if you can believe that. The last two years I got a tattoo on my left shoulder of paratrooper wings. It’s the only tattoo I have and it kind of shows you how proud I am of my time spent serving my country.
Do you have a favorite in-game story?
It would involve Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas rolling into a Monday Night football game at Three Rivers Stadium. We were having a great day and I could tell by the end of the first quarter they were overwhelmed. The crowd was rocking. The Steeler fans were just cranking out really loud, so Greg (Lloyd) and I just started yelling at Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, just yelling, ‘Yeah, do you hear that? Hey, we’re coming after you! We’re gonna get you! Oh, yeah!’ We were just yelling and as they were lining up Kelly and Thomas were back there and we were yelling and screaming, just intimidating. That coupled with the crowd, I could look in their eyes, in Jim Kelly’s eyes, and Thurman Thomas’s eyes, and I could just see they were overwhelmed, and they were just lost. The way I read their look, they were like ‘Oh, God, what are we doing here? These animals are really, really serious.’ Those games were great because we totally dominated, just stepped on their necks. Not only that, we twisted our cleats in their neck, that kind of thing. It was open and verbal abuse from Greg and I, too. You could just see. I remember Kelly stopping his cadence just to kind of listen to us a little bit and gather his thoughts about him. We had him rattled, and Greg was ripping him. I was a little more subdued, but when Greg would get in some of those tirades like that with the opposing team it was just great.
What about your jump into the crowd?
Maybe that was the first crowd jump. I know that Tara and I used to go around the parking lot after the games in our SUV, just drive around for 45 minutes and high-five everybody. I’d get out with groups of people and just shake hands, just to thank them for coming. It was just my way of giving back. And I’d sign autographs until there was nobody else to sign autographs for. It was just my way of saying thank you for paying your hard-earned money to come watch us kick some ass. I wanted to let them know I was passionate about football, that I’m just like them. I’m just out there getting it done, doing it, you know, as a part of them.
Didn’t you bring food to people waiting in line for playoff tickets?
It was Big Macs and French fries. It was a line prior to a playoff game and it was a case of people camping out waiting for tickets to go on sale, and it was freezing, and Tara and I thought it would help to bring something to eat. We called up the local Mickey D’s and ordered a hundred Big Macs and a hundred fries. We pulled up in our SUV and hopped out and everyone was happy to see us. We put down the tailgate and started handing it out. I told them we appreciated them standing out here for tickets to watch us play, and now please share the food. 'Please, don’t bogart the food.' And you know what? I was passing out Big Macs and people in the front were taking them and passing them back six, seven, eight rows back, so nobody in front of me was getting four or five Big Macs and scurrying out. It was amazing. People were taking the fries and passing them all the way back to the last row of a big crowd of people and everybody made sure that everybody got some. I just met somebody a couple months ago in an airport and he said he was one of the guys that got a Big Mac and he wanted to thank me. That was so cool. So many years later they remember the Big Macs and the fries.