DALLAS — The player who wore jersey No. 91 was always intense There's no arguing that.
Kevin Greene, one of the most productive outside linebackers in NFL history, was blessed with physical talent that allowed him to play at a high level for 15 seasons. He is remembered for his high intensity, his flowing mane of blonde hair and his desire to go all out on every play, hell-bent on creating chaos and taking down the quarterback — something he did with spectacular regularity during the course of his career.
Today, he serves as the OLB coach for the Super Bowl-bound Packers, and you can see that the fire still burns.
When you talk to him, he stares right back at you, looking directly into your eyes. He speaks with passion — a passion for the game, and a passion for making his "kids" the best players they can be. On the surface, little has changed about Kevin Greene from the time that he was a big-play defender to now, as an NFL position coach.
"He's approached his coaching job with the same passion that he did as a player, and I think his players reflect that on Sunday," says Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the man who brought Greene to Green Bay in his current capacity.
Capers is also the man who mentored Greene as his defensive coordinator during the first two of Greene's three-season stay in Pittsburgh. Greene reunited with Capers again in Carolina in 1996, when Capers was the head coach of the Panthers.
"I had the good fortune of having Kevin as a player in both Pittsburgh and Carolina," Capers recently recalled. "He led the league in sacks the last year (with me) in Pittsburgh and his first year in Carolina, in '96. He always played the game with a passion. He always took more film home and prepared, and he's carried those same qualities as a coach. He takes an awful lot of pride in teaching these guys. He can relate to them because he's been there. You know, I mean, he's got the most sacks of any linebacker in the history of the league."
Greene collected 160 sacks during his playing days, third most in NFL history (behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White).
In Green Bay, Greene has proven to be a natural at coaching. His players have taken to him because of that passion and intensity.
"He's done a tremendous job," says OLB Clay Matthews, a one-man wrecking crew who is often compared to Greene for his relentless play and long hair. "Obviously, he played this position himself for many years and has been very instrumental in my development. I don't think I would be at where I am today (without him)."
Greene got his coaching start as an NFL coaching intern in 2006 with Miami, where — naturally — Capers was the defensive coordinator. He served similar stints with other clubs, including the Steelers in 2008, the season in which the Steelers won their last Super Bowl. It was during his short coaching tenure with the Steelers that he got a chance to work with OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, both of whom recognized they were learning from a legend.
"Kevin's intense," Harrison told PFW on Wednesday. "He's a very intense coach, something that I really like about him. He's a player. He's played the game. So you have respect for him in that form. And he did it real big when he played it, so anything that he says, you're going to do."
Woodley was equally as complimentary about his former teacher and current opponent.
"Just his attitude to how he approached practice each and every day; it was that aggressive attitude, ready to play," Woodley told PFW. "I mean, when he coached, he was ready to play right then and there when he showed you those moves. So I knew once he got the job at Green Bay that those guys were going to turn out pretty good."
Woodley added that he always had a feeling that Greene, 48, still craved the hitting that took place on the field, despite the fact that he was in his mid-40s.
"He definitely was itching for some contact, because when Kevin Greene talks, he talks with intensity," Woodley noted. "He didn't take no crap (as a player), I'll tell you that. The way that he coached us was exactly the way that he played."
Greene knew after the NFL internships, and working with current players that it was something that he would like to do on a full-time basis.
"I worked with Woodley and James Harrison, and it was good," Greene explained. "I mean, I enjoyed it. I could see at that time the addictive qualities of coaching, because you're working with your kids, and you're helping them, and you're molding them, you know? Teaching them different techniques and fundamentals that worked for you as a player. So, I thought I could do that, I could be good at it."
Something else Greene was good at, for a time during his playing career, was as a professional wrestler. Greene's wild-child personality meshed well in the crazy world of pro wrestling. At one time, he starred with former Bears DT Steve "Mongo" McMichael in the ring (and sometimes outside of it) in WCW matches. But that side career ended after NFL teams barred players from participating to protect their high-priced investments from getting injured while moonlighting. After retiring from the NFL in 1999, he opted not to return to the mat.
"I kind of wanted to pull away a little bit from the limelight more than anything, just kind of fade back into oblivion a little bit," Greene said. "Just be a normal person more than anything, I think. It served its purpose. I was able to raise a couple of children (Gavin, 13, and Gabrielle, 11), spend a lot of time with them being a dad. And that was really my goal at that time, to be a really good dad.
"I had fun with it. It was something that was fun to do. To be out there with Mongo, and Ric Flair, and Macho Man (Randy Savage). It was fun. And when you have fun doing something, it shows. But it wasn't something that I wanted to pursue after I retired from football," Greene explained. "I just pulled away from it and tried to find my niche in society after 15 years in the NFL, and it's hard to do. So, it just feels good to be back. This is as close to the fire as I can get having been a part of that."
This week, despite all the distractions of meeting with the media, who have taken him on numerous trips down memory lane, Greene's focus is solely on one thing — getting "his kids" ready to play in the biggest game of their lives.
He's not worried about whether his incredibly productive playing career should result in enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"As far as the Hall of Fame goes, it is what it is," Greene said. "I don't live my life day-to-day with that hanging over my head. I've got a peace about how I played in 15 years, and if it happens, then that's good. And if it doesn't, it isn't really going to alter my life. I've got a great job and my kids are playing well, and I'm here in the Super Bowl, so I'm keeping it in perspective. And the reason why I can do that is because I've got a peace about how I played. That's what really matters to me."
He's not worried about parlaying the success with his current group of charges into a promotion somewhere else around the league.
"It's not on my radar. I mean it's not something that I'm looking at or hunting for. My main mission right now is pretty simple. I just want to be the best at what I'm doing, which is outside linebackers coach with the Green Bay Packers," Greene insisted. "I really haven't thought about that because really my main mental focus is on being the best that I can be for my kids. I want my kids to be so productive and successful as much as they can be, so I'm doing everything I can to pull myself into my kids so that happens. That's where my mind is right now."
He's not worried if Steelers fans will hold it against him that he's now coaching the enemy, the Packers.
"I guess I'm kind of indifferent about the fact that they're the Pittsburgh Steelers. I mean, it's another team … we really need this win. We've got to win this game. There's really no other option," Greene said. "I am a Green Bay Packers coach. My No. 1 job and my No. 1 focus, and where all my energy lies is being the best OLB coach I can be for my kids. I want to have my kids the best prepared for this game. And that's my job. And I take it very seriously. I had great times with Pittsburgh, don't get me wrong. A lot of great memories. But understand where I am. I mean, I'm a Packer coach, and this is my job. And I take it very seriously. I'm going to try to be the best at what I am doing. And some of the things that have prepared me to be the best at what I am doing is playing this position for roughly 15 years."
The only worry that Greene has now is whether his current efforts will result in his first Super Bowl championship, perhaps the only accolade that has eluded this passionate, intense football man in an illustrious NFL career.