Kevin Greene, former Carolina Panthers linebacker and Hall of Famer, has died
Kevin Greene, one of the greatest players in the Carolina Panthers' early 1990s teams, died Monday. He was 58 years old. The cause of death was not immediately known, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame sent out a statement confirming his death.
Greene played three of his 15 NFL seasons with the Panthers and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. This made him the first former panther in the hall who had played several seasons with Carolina. With the Panthers in 1996, he sacked the NFL and, along with Lamar Lathon, formed one of the NFL's most feared pass-rushing combinations.
"People called me crazy," Greene once said in an interview with The Observer. “But I loved playing soccer. When you have a passion for something, that love will show. "
Greene's death shocked the Panthers community and his former teammates. "I just spoke to Kevin last Wednesday," Lathon said in a phone interview on Monday evening. “We said we love each other, just like we always do. I can't understand that at all. "
"It's absolutely shocking news," said Wesley Walls, former Panthers who joined the Panthers in 1996 with Greene and played alongside the linebacker for three years. “Kevin was an old school warrior, a natural entertainer, and totally unblockable. There would be times in the middle of a game week when I would say, "I don't know if Kevin can play." He always got over some kind of injury. But when Sunday came you wanted this guy on your team. I've never seen anyone harder. "
With his charismatic personality and explosive play, Greene quickly became a fan favorite. As former Carolina coach Dom Capers The Observer once said of Greene, "Coaches can tell when a player has that 'it' quality, and Kevin had 'it' - that sense of energy that was good for a team. "
Greene was once in Auburn and posted 160 sacks in his 15-year NFL career. He retired as number 3 on the league's all-time list. With Carolina - 1996, 1998 and 1999 - Greene collected 41.5 sacks and an average of almost one sack per game, with Carolina posting three double-digit sack years in his mid-30s.
After most of these sacks, Greene celebrated hilariously. As his former teammate Eric Davis once said, "Kevin Greene danced every single sack."
Kevin Greene "danced every single sack," said a former team-mate.
Greene's passion was sometimes expressed in other ways. While he was with the Panthers in 1998, he furiously grabbed Panthers assistant coach Kevin Steele by the collar. Capers allowed Greene to continue playing in that game, which became a controversial point, but suspended him for the next. Steele and Greene quickly reconciled after the incident.
After retiring from playing, Greene became a respected NFL assistant coach for the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers. And while Greene never won a Super Bowl as a player, he did win one as an assistant coach at Green Bay. He later gave up coaching for some time and has lived with his family in the Destin, Florida area for the past few years.
More sacks than Lawrence Taylor
During his 15-year NFL career, Greene played for four franchises - the L.A. Rams, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Panthers. The Panthers caught him at the end of his career, but he was still one of the best pass rushers the team has ever had as a 3-4 flank player.
Even in his senior year at the age of 37 in 1999, he had 12 sacks that would easily run the current Panthers team. With his signature blonde mane, Greene also flew into professional wrestling in the off-season, where his big personality was a perfect match for Ric Flair (they once shared a ring and were good friends).
Kevin Greene was a great free agent who signed for the Panthers in 1996. He left the team in 1997 on a paycheck, but then returned in 1998 and 1999.
Only Reggie White and Bruce Smith have more career bags than Greene (bags didn't become an official NFL statistic until 1982). Greene told the Observer in January that he always wanted to finish as the best sack of all linebackers, including former North Carolina and NFL star Lawrence Taylor.
Greene said, “When I retired, I knew I really wanted to play longer and be more productive than Lawrence Taylor. I wanted to show that I could have better numbers on the board than the great Lawrence Taylor. And I did it. "
The last two sacks of his career at Greene came in his last game for Carolina in 1999, when he faced then New Orleans and future Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme twice. Realizing it was likely to be his last game, several of Greene's teammates carried him off the field after the competition ended.
Panther's trainer Matt Rhule expressed his condolences on Monday. "On behalf of myself, our employees, our team, and all of the Carolina Panthers employees, I would like to offer our deepest condolences to the Kevin Greene family," said Rhule. “A great player, coach and of course a Carolina Panther. His loss is sad for all of us. "
A series of concussions, 2 cardiac stents
Talking to Greene was a joy for most reporters as he was a game to almost anything (he and Lathon were once dressed up as Santa for an Observer photoshoot) and he tried hard to bring his descriptions to life. Look at this for the observer in 2019 as he described his lone Carolina touchdown over a 66 yard fumble recovery and return in 1996.
In 1996, Greene scored the only touchdown of his Panthers career on a 66 yard fumble recovery.
Greene recalled, “Remember, I was an old man at the time - 34 years old, although I was still topping the league by sacks that year (at 14.5). I remember looking over my shoulder to judge if someone was going to chase me, and then I turned and just started screaming as I ran across the field. I literally stopped breathing towards the end. I was stressed with every muscle in my body.
“When I got around 5, I knew I was done. I thought I was going to get caught. I was just diving into the end zone, slapped my shoulder, and rolled over. I sucked the life-giving air into my lungs, heard the crowd, and celebrated. "
To play for as long as Greene did, it took a lot of physical sacrifice. He once estimated The Observer that he had 20 to 30 concussions during his career.
"I had problems," he told The Observer in January. "I had both hips replaced, I ended up with four shoulder surgeries, two stents in my heart, and I lost the number of concussions I had while playing." But I wouldn't change anything. It is what it is ... I think I did something that not many people can do, which is to play out your passion, all of your passion for this soccer game that I really loved. "
Greene's survivors include his wife Tara, who occasionally sang the national anthem at panther games during Greene's career. Greene considered them his pre-game good luck charm and would boast of the Panthers' excellent record when Tara sang before the game.
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