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Joe Greene (American football)

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Title: Joe Greene (American football)  
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Subject: Jack Lambert (American football), Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Super Bowl IX
Collection: 1946 Births, African-American Players of American Football, All-American College Football Players, American Conference Pro Bowl Players, American Football Defensive Tackles, American Male Film Actors, American Male Television Actors, Arizona Cardinals Coaches, College Football Hall of Fame Inductees, Eastern Conference Pro Bowl Players, Living People, Miami Dolphins Coaches, National Football League Announcers, National Football League Defensive Rookie of the Year Award Winners, North Texas Mean Green Football Players, People from Duncanville, Texas, People from Temple, Texas, Pittsburgh Steelers Coaches, Pittsburgh Steelers Players, Players of American Football from Texas, Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductees, Super Bowl Champions
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Joe Greene (American football)

Joe Greene
Greene in 1975
No. 75
Position: Defensive Tackle
Personal information
Date of birth: (1946-09-24) September 24, 1946
Place of birth: Elgin, Texas
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight: 275 lb (125 kg)
Career information
High school: Temple (TX) Dunbar
College: North Texas
NFL draft: 1969 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games: 181
Interceptions: 1
Stats at
Pro Football Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame

Charles Edward Greene, known as "Mean Joe" Greene, (born September 24, 1946) is a former all-pro American football defensive tackle who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). Throughout the early 1970s, Greene was one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL.[1] Winning two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, as well as earning five first-team All-Pro selections, Greene is widely considered one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play in the NFL. He was the cornerstone of the "Steel Curtain" defense,[1] and as of the passing of L.C. Greenwood on September 29, 2013, is its last surviving member. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a four-time Super Bowl champion. Greene is also well known for his appearance in the "Hey Kid, Catch!" Coca-Cola commercial in 1979, widely considered to be one of the best television commercials of all time.[2][3][4][5]


  • College career 1
  • Pro football career 2
  • Retirement 3
  • Coaching career 4
  • Film and television 5
    • Coca-Cola commercial 5.1
  • References 6
  • External links 7

College career

Before his NFL career, Greene had an outstanding college football career at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) (1966–68), leading the team to a 23–5–1 record during his three seasons. In his 29 games at defensive tackle, North Texas State held the opposition to 2,507 yards gained on 1,276 rushes, a per carry average of less than two yards per attempt. His collegiate coach, Rod Rust, said of Greene, "There are two factors behind Joe's success. First, he has the ability to make the big defensive play and turn the tempo of a game around. Second, he has the speed to be an excellent pursuit player." A pro scout said, "He's tough and mean and comes to hit people. He has good killer instincts. He's mobile and hostile."[6]

He got his nickname when the Pittsburgh fan base mistakenly assumed that the North Texas team nickname of "Mean Green" was Joe Greene's nickname; however, it was actually Coach Rust's wife who wanted to give a nickname to the team's outstanding defense who laid down the description which stuck in two instances. Since green is the school's main color, she gave the defense the name "Mean Green".

In 1984, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2006, Greene was voted to the East-West Shrine Game Hall of Fame.[7]

Pro football career

In 1969, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the fourth pick of the NFL draft and spent his entire career with them until his retirement in 1981. When Greene was drafted, a newspaper headline asked, Who's Joe Greene? The question was quickly answered as Greene became so good that teams double-teamed, and even triple-teamed, him throughout his entire career. In addition to his skills, other teams saw Greene as a threat because of his size.

After he was drafted, Greene quickly established himself as a dominant defensive player. He was strong, quick and intense. He was the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 1969, even though he played on a Steelers team that went 1–13 in Chuck Noll's first year as its head coach. The Steelers quickly improved over the next few seasons. Greene later admitted that he was upset with being drafted by the Steelers due to their long history of losing. He often showed his displeasure on the field, including an incident during a game with the Chicago Bears in which he spat in the face of Dick Butkus and challenged Butkus, long considered to have been the NFL's meanest player, to a fight (although Greene himself has stated in interviews that this supposed incident never actually happened).

In his early years with the Steelers, Greene was at times uncontrollable, and often let his temper get the best of him. On one occasion during a 1975 game against the rival Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in which the Steelers won 42–6, Greene repeatedly kicked Browns lineman Bob McKay in the groin while McKay was lying on the ground.[8] Another incident had Greene snap the ball away from the center while the opposing team was lining up for a play. He had no tolerance for losing, and the team veterans quickly took notice. His intense desire to win rallied the veterans around him, and with great drafts as well as superb coaching, the Steelers franchise soon began to undergo a dramatic makeover. Joe Greene was credited as the cornerstone of the great Steelers dynasty and the most important player in Steeler's history.

Greene was the leader and the anchor of the "Steel Curtain" defense that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. He was recognized as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in both 1972 and 1974. He, along with other members of the Steelers' front four (L. C. Greenwood, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes) even appeared on the cover of Time magazine. In Super Bowl IX, Greene became the first player ever to record an interception, a forced fumble, and fumble recovery in a single Super Bowl. He went to the Pro Bowl 10 times during his career.

Greene is also well known for the "stunt 4–3" defense, in which he would line up at an angle, between the center and guard, and would explode into the line taking up 2–3 blockers. He started doing this sometime in the 1974 season, and while it cut down on the number of sacks he racked up, it freed up his other defensive teammates like middle linebacker Jack Lambert to make tackles with ease.

After leading the Steelers to another Super Bowl win after the 1975 season over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X, Greene missed the first several games of the 1976 season with a back injury. The Steelers started off the season 1–4 and looked like they would not make the playoffs. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw was also injured and was replaced by rookie Mike Kruczek. The season looked lost. But Greene and the Steelers defense carried the Steelers to nine straight wins and the playoffs. With a defense considered one of the best in NFL history, the 1976 Steelers held opponents to an average of less than 10 points per game (138 points over 14 games). During their nine-game winning streak, the Steelers defense recorded five shutouts, another modern record, and gave up a total of just 28 points (roughly 3 points per game). The defense allowed only two touchdowns over nine games.

Ten of the eleven starters on that 1976 Steelers team were players who made the Pro Bowl at least once in their career (eight starters made the Pro Bowl after the 1976 season). Middle linebacker Jack Lambert along with Greene, became the emotional leaders of the defensive squad. Greene continued to perform at an all-pro level, becoming a 5-time All-Pro (1972–74, 77, 79) and in 1969 receiving the first of his 10 Pro Bowl invitations. Greene retired after the 1981 season after 13 years in the league.

His spot in the lineup was technically not replaced; the Steelers switched to a 3–4 defensive alignment for the 1982 season, which has only one nose tackle as opposed to two defensive tackles, giving the extra spot to a second middle linebacker. The team has used the 3–4 as its base alignment continuously in the years since Greene's retirement.

His end stats were 181 games, 78.5 sacks (unofficially, as sacks were not an official statistic until 1982) and 16 fumble recoveries. Joe Greene had 190 tackles in 1978.


After retiring from the NFL, Greene spent one year (1982) as a color analyst for CBS' NFL coverage before becoming an assistant coach under Steelers' head coach Chuck Noll in 1987. He spent the next 16 years as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, and Arizona Cardinals. In 2004, he retired from coaching and was named the special assistant for player personnel for the Steelers. In this position he earned his 5th Super Bowl ring after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, and a sixth from Super Bowl XLIII. Greene is one of four people outside the Rooney family to have Super Bowl rings from the first six championship teams.[9] Greene retired from his position in the Steelers' front office in 2013.[10]

It was Greene, in fact, who coined the phrase "One for the Thumb in '81" after the Steelers won Super Bowl XIV. After the Steelers missed the playoffs in 1980, the saying was shortened to "One for the Thumb" and became the unofficial rally cry for the Steelers' search for the elusive fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy until the team finally won it in 2005.

On July 30, 2014, it was announced that the Steelers would be retiring Greene's No. 75, and it was officially retired at halftime during the Steelers game against the archrival Baltimore Ravens on November 2, 2014, a game the Steelers won 43–23. Greene also briefly wore number 72 during his rookie season before switching to his more familiar 75 midseason. He will be only the second Steeler to have his jersey formally retired, the first being Ernie Stautner.[11][12] However, the Steelers had not reissued No. 75 since Greene's retirement, and it had been understood long before 2014 that no Steeler would ever wear it again.

Greene was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

Greene now resides in Flower Mound, Texas.

Coaching career

Film and television

Greene made a number of television and film appearances:

Coca-Cola commercial

Joe Greene appeared in a famous commercial for Coca-Cola that debuted on October 1, 1979, was aired again during the 1980 Super Bowl, and again in 2015 during the NASCAR Southern 500 at Darlington. The ad won a Clio Award in 1980 for being one of the best commercials of 1979.[13]


  1. ^ a b Best run stuffer? Finding the best defensive tackle in the NFL. USA Today. July 5, 2008
  2. ^ Fowler, Scott (February 23, 1992). "Take it from Mean Joe: Famous ad wasn't easy".  
  3. ^ Best Super Bowl commercials. ESPN
  4. ^ Coca-Cola Television Advertisements:The D'Arcy Era.
  5. ^ "Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials of All Time: Coke's Mean Joe Greene, #3".  
  6. ^ "Joe Greene College Football Hall of Fame bio".  
  7. ^ Hall of Fame. Shrine Game
  8. ^ Rivalry makes turn to primetime. The Morning Journal. September 14, 2008
  9. ^ "Pittsburgh Steelers". Retrieved February 20, 2014. 
  10. ^ Bouchette, Ed (May 7, 2013). "Steelers legend Joe Greene retires from front office job".  
  11. ^ Steelers All-Time Roster by Name Through 2005 Season.
  12. ^ "Mean" Joe Greene, on
  13. ^ Shontell, Alyson (January 18, 2011) "The 10 Best Award-Winning TV Ads Everyone Must See". BusinessInsider

External links

  • Mean Joe Greene Official Website
  • Hall of Fame page for Joe Greene
  • iFilm: Coca-Cola Ad
  • Behind the scenes: The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid
  • College Football Hall of Fame bio
  • Member of the Cold, Hard Football "All-Time 11" (2006)
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