The Rams have many legends, but a select few are memorable for their charisma. In fact, not many captivated the crowds quite like linebacker Kevin Greene. He could play every position on the defensive front and brought plenty of intensity to the game. Here’s a look back at Greene’s historic career:
Auburn University: It’s hard to believe that a future Hall of Famer like Greene wasn’t a known prospect entering his collegiate career. He was actually a walk-on with the Auburn Tigers, but provided the production of a highly touted scholarship athlete. Greene had 69 career sacks with Auburn as a defensive end/outside linebacker. His most notable season came during his senior year when he was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and had 11 sacks and one interception.
Los Angeles Rams (1985-1992): The Rams selected Greene in the fifth round (113th overall) of the 1985 NFL Draft. It was difficult to crack the starting lineup when the roster was riddled with players like Mel Owens, Carl Ekern, Jim Collins and Mike Wilcher ahead on the depth chart. Head coach John Robinson simply did not have anywhere to place him, but that would quickly change when Greene began making a name for himself with what little opportunities he had. He even made his presence felt on special teams.
Robinson couldn’t keep a talent like Greene on the bench. Greene had the body frame of a linebacker, standing at 6’3” and weighed about 245 pounds. But he had great quickness and strength and was placed as a situational pass rusher. The results proved to be positive: he earned 13.5 sacks in that role from 1986-1987.
Greene got his first opportunity to start in 1988, and he didn’t disappoint. He earned 16.5 sacks and 51 tackles as the teams’ outside linebacker. Greene took the league by storm with his fiery celebration and was considered an inspiration to Ram fans. Fans flocked to games just to see what “Gang Greene” was going to do next. “I was a fifth-round pick and was not highly recruited,” Greene told the L.A. Times. He continued by saying, “I’m a blue collar guy, I guess, and that’s enabled me to make a good connection with the fans.”
It certainly helps that he compiled 42.5 sacks in the next four seasons (1989-1992) with the Rams. Greene also earned a spot on the Pro Bowl roster in 1989. Unfortunately, 1992 was his final season with the Rams. The team chose not to make a strong run at keeping him, and he opted to go play for the Pittsburgh Steelers the following year.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1993-1995): Part of the reason for Greene’s departure from Los Angeles is because he wished to play for a 3-4 defense instead of the 4-3 that Rams head coach Chuck Knox and defensive coordinator George Dyer switched to. The Steelers and Greene proved to be a perfect match.
The Steelers made it to the playoffs in all three of the seasons Greene spent in Pittsburgh. Greene even helped lead the team to a Super Bowl in 1995, but they lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 27-17. Greene made the Pro Bowl in two of the three seasons (1994-1995) and was named an All-Pro in 1994. He earned 37.5 total sacks while with the Steelers.
Carolina Panthers (1996, 1998-1999), San Francisco 49ers (1997): The final four years of Greene’s career was devoted to the same role that some of his veteran predecessors, which was to instill the knowledge of the game to younger athletes. In his first season with the Panthers, he played a crucial role in the team’s playoff run. Greene made the All-Pro team and the Pro Bowler after totaling 37 tackles, 14.5 sacks and had three fumble recoveries.
Greene then signed a multi-year contract with the 49ers, but he was released after a holdout. During his time in San Francisco, he did compile 10.5 sacks.
Greene returned to the Carolina for the final two years of his career and made the Pro Bowl roster in 1998. He finished his career with 160 total sacks, 669 tackles and 23 forced fumbles. He was one of the finalists for the 2015 Hall of Fame class but didn’t quite make it.
Other Achievements: As mentioned earlier, Greene had a way to captivate audiences and did so in another form of entertainment. He made a successful run in World Championship Wrestling and often competed during NFL offseasons. Greene didn’t wrestle for long, because teams required him to sign contracts with “no-wrestling” clauses.
Greene was hired as the Green Bay Packers’ linebacker coach and coached from 2009-2013. He decided to step away from coaching to spend more time with his family.