Kevin Greene Enshrinement speech
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
August 6, 2016
Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it. Let me start off by saying, obviously, congratulations to my teammates, the Hall of Fame Class of 2016. It's an honor. Y'all know that Brett Favre is actually No. 298, and I'm No. 299. You follow me? So isn't that cool that I am side by side with Brett Favre for eternity. Right where a linebacker needs to be. Yeah?
I want to thank my presenter, Dom Capers. I have known Dom Capers and his wife, Karen, since 1993. He brought me to the Pittsburgh Steelers and put me in a position to effect games, and then with the Carolina Panthers, he was the head coach there and he brought me there and he put me in a position to effect games. Then he brought me to the Green Bay Packers, and he put me in a position -- he put me in a position to teach others to effect games. So, coach, Dom, I love you, and thank you very much for everything. Coach, Dom, thank you.
All right. So I'm standing here as a member of the Class of 2016, and no doubt it's a great individual honor. No doubt it is. But I must be honest, I am standing on the shoulders of many, many players, many coaches, many people. The good Lord has smiled upon me my entire life, a reoccurring theme is that he has surrounded me with people of high character and great integrity, and they have all left an indelible mark on the very fabric of my life. It really started with my dad. My dad retired, full colonel, Vietnam veteran, airborne ranger, 101st Airborne Division.
My dad was a true soldier, and he was a man of honor. My dad was a full-time dad, and he was actively involved in my life, never letting me stray too far from the straight and narrow, although I'm sure that I tested his patience a little bit every now and then.
But my dad had me goal-oriented and squared away at a fairly early age. He placed my older brother, Keith, and me in football and basketball and baseball, and he was either the head coach or he was either the assistant head coach or a position coach. He put us in scouting, in the Boy Scouts, and he was either the head Scout Master or the assistant Scout Master. He set the standard for Keith and me through his actions and the way he carried himself with discipline and regimentation.
He passed on to us Army values: Be men of honor, have integrity, be respectful, have an attitude of selfless service.
Dad, I don't have enough time here today to thank you enough. I love you so much.
That was as well as my brother Keith. My brother, Keith. Check this out. Pretty good resume. Retired lieutenant colonel, Gulf War veteran, paratrooper, Blackhawk helicopter pilot, 101st Airborne Division. Good Lord, another fine soldier, but a better older brother. He was the best older brother for a younger brother like me. He never picked on me. He never called me names. He never degraded me. He always tried to show me the right thing to do. He was always a great example to follow. Now, he was two years older than me, okay, and you can imagine it was pretty competitive. Keith was always faster and stronger and tougher and smarter and meaner and nastier and meaner, but he was always better. It was a great older brother to look up to and to live up to. So I love you, Keith. I thank you, bro', for everything.
So along with my mother and my two younger sisters, Kristen and Karen, we moved around the globe every two or three years as military dependents do. But it was when I was 12 years old and I was living in Mannheim, Germany, living on a military base called Benjamin Franklin Village that the desire to do something special in football really began to burn inside of me. And I was surrounded by other military dependents who comprised all colors and creeds and nationalities, and all these kids were born to get hard, just like their Army fathers and Army mothers. I competed against the best that the athletic youth association had to offer. Names you don't know, but I know very well -- Billy LeClair, Sammy Jackson, Brendon Hefner, just to name a few. But they were all skilled players, all good people, all fine players. Competing against them made me better.
Now, in high school, I played for the Granite City South Warriors back in the States. Granite City, Granite City was a steel mill town full of tough kids with steel mill-working parents. Again, the Lord surrounded me with fine people that affected my life. Thank you, Coach Jerry McKeckan and Nick Petrillo for loving me and investing in me and caring for me.
And thank you, Bobby. Bob Firtos, my lifelong friend who actually shared a dream with me that, hey, one day we're going to be superstars. And I'm standing on the stage with the best ever. So this is pretty cool, huh, Bobby? I love you, man. I love you.
Then I go on to Auburn, and I get a chance to practice against a fellow by the name of Steve Wallace. Steve Wallace was a beast at offensive tackle. He played 12 years, he would go on to play 12 years in the National Football League, Pro Bowl, three-time All-Pro, he won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers protecting Joe Montana and Steve Young. And this man in practice, he beat me down. No doubt he did, and I felt the wrath of my position coach, Joe Whitt. That's okay. I learned, I learned.
And I played against another fellow, practiced against another fellow at Auburn that you may -- or I think you know, everybody would know. His name is Vincent Bo Jackson. All right. Everybody knows Bo. I'm going to be honest, Bo, he ran my ass over. But I've got a peace about it, honestly, because he ran a lot of asses over. Again, I felt the wrath of my position coach, but I learned.
Surrounded by great, great teammates, John Dailey, Gerald Robinson, Lionel "Little Train" James and David King. And they all made me better. They helped me find my way as a walk-on there with the Auburn Tigers.
It was a blessing. It was a blessing planned for Pat Dye and his staff down at Auburn, and what I learned during those days, those hot, tough days down on the plains would literally last me an eternity in the NFL. I love Auburn, I am Auburn, and more "Dam Eagle" to all my brothers and sisters out there. I love you all.
So my first eight years in the National Football League I played for the Los Angeles Rams. Again, the Lord smiled upon me. The head coach, Coach John Robinson, saw something in me. I don't know. Maybe he saw a little crazy, but him and defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmer created a defense for me and named it the "Eagle" defense, and they put me in a position to effect games, and I did. I effected games. But I was blessed to have practiced for eight years against Hall of Fame offensive tackle Jackie Ray Slater. Anybody have some recall on him? Fine man. Jackie Ray Slater.
This dude carried a Bible in one hand and a switchblade in the other. Honest to God, you guys all up here know that's true. He would witness to me as he was beating me down. Good Lord. I was blessed to have practiced against another Hall of Fame player, Eric Dickerson. He ran my tail over. He ran away from me. He ran around me. I couldn't touch him. I'm kind of thinking maybe football's not my thing. This is a tough damn deal. I was blessed to have Chuck Obremski, our team chaplain, invest in my life, along with his wife, Linda. Kids Krista and Ryan, they remain a beacon in a dark world, and I love them very much.
My hunting brother on the other side of that 3-4 defense was a fellow by the name of Mike Wilcher. Mike Wilcher, he made me a better player, just like Doug Reed and David Hill, Dennis Harrah, Fred Strickland, Larry Kelm, Brett Faryniarz, and Duval Love, all my brothers. They made me better. So I want to say thank you to all my Rams brothers. Thank you for everything.
So in my ninth year, I find myself in the right place at the right time in the football universe. I find myself in Blitzburgh. I would never quite experience anything like being a Pittsburgh Steeler, playing for Mr. Rooney and the Steeler organization that had such a rich history of just lining up and kicking ass and winning. It was awesome to be a part of that, playing in front of the Steeler Nation and feeding off that energy from those fans. I believed in my heart that I was unblockable, and it was a phenomenal experience.
Now, check this out. I'm surrounded by Bill Cowher, Dom Capers, Dick LeBeau, and my position coach, Marvin Lewis. I mean, those are some fine, quality coaches. Who can't shine with that much coaching talent around them? Good Lord.
My teammates, and you guys have to visualize this with me, on the other side of me on that 3-4 was Greg Lloyd, and he is freaking out. You know he is. Then one of the inside linebackers was Levon Kirkland, big, 275, 280, run stuffer, breaking heads, Chad Brown inside. He's hissing like a snake, and I've got a Hall of Fame corner named Rod Woodson, who is my corner. Rod Woodson. And he's yelling at me, Greene, get your slow ass out to the flat quicker. And I'm like, What? I've got to play the run, dude. I'll be out there when I can. It was a strange -- it was a strange deal, but an unbelievable, wonderful time of my life.
Carnell Lake, he would rotate down and he would actually tackle everything that I funneled out to him. Darren Perry, holding down the top on the back end. I played with Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson, Bam Morris, Leon Searcy, Justin Strzelczyk. I was in football heaven.
On defense, now listen to this, we would get ticked off at each other for making a solo tackle and not holding up the ball carrier so that everybody else on defense could get a piece of his tail. Think about that for a second. Make no mistake, it was the pinnacle of my football life. Mr. Rooney, thank you. Thank you Steeler Nation. Thank you all my Steeler brothers. Appreciate you.
So my time in Carolina, home of the new Panthers was, again, a tremendous blessing. I've got Dom Capers again. My position coach then was Billy Davis, another fine, fine coach. Again, they put me in a position to effect games, and the owner Mr. Richardson, such a class act. We all felt his love and we all felt his commitment along with Marty Hurney, and Hall of Famer Bill Polian, we almost shocked the nation in the second year of existence. So now here I am in Carolina with a guy on the other side of that 3-4 named Lamar Lathon, and he is freaking out and tripping. And him and I led the NFL in sacks, we were one and two in sacks back in '96. So Lamar made me a better player, and I appreciate you, man. I do. Thank you.
One of my inside linebackers is a fellow by the name of Sam Mills. All 5'9" and 218 pounds soaking wet. But this man would stone people and drop them. Just a fine player and a better leader on that team. Guys like Greg Kragen and Brett Maxie, Michael Barrow, Steve Beuerlein and Anthony Johnson, they all made me better. Thank you all my Carolina Panther brothers out there.
So I had a chance to play for the 49ers for one season, and everything that I heard about the 49ers being a great organization was absolutely true. I wish I had played for Mr. Eddie D. for more than just one season. But I was surrounded again by fine players and good coaches. My position coach, Dwaine Board, he logged a lot of time in the NFL. He brought a lot to the table. Some of my players like Bryant Young, and Ken Norton Jr., Merton Hanks, and again, Rod Woodson. I was a part of a number one defense, and it was a great time.
We had Hall of Famer Steve Young and Jerry Rice on offense. At that time, I'm thinking this: The football gods have really got to be laughing at this one. Because I have been beaten so many times by Steve Young and Jerry Rice that now they're actually my teammates and I've got to say hi to them every day in the locker room. No, hell no, I don't. But thank you Mr. Eddie D. for that opportunity. I appreciate it.
So I played 15 years, and, quite frankly, I wouldn't be squat without the coaches and players and GMs that I mentioned. And I'm sure I missed a couple like my A-team brothers down at Auburn and all the doctors that kept me pieced together to play on game day. But after 15 years of fun in the sun, I walk away happy and healthy for the most part and a peace of mind, peace of my heart with the way I played.
If you think about it, maybe that's the best a football player can do is to exhaust his passion and go out on his own terms and along the way have fun kicking people's asses with your brothers. That's always fun. Entertain some folks, develop some lifelong relationships and have enough good health to play some football with your son and daughter in the front yard. So that was good.
So now let me thank my wonderful wife, Tara. Married 24 years. She was a blessing that put me on the path to greatness. I'm good. I'm good. Trust me, I clearly out punted my coverage when I married this young lady.
She cleared my mind when my thoughts were cluttered and she steadied my legs when they began to shake, and she gave me shade when the sun was just a little bit too bright for me. She blessed me with two awesome babies, Gavin and Gabi, and she helped me realize that being a dad would be by far my biggest and best accomplishment. I love you. Thank you.
Okay. In closing, I think probably most importantly I want to thank all those brave people that have served and continue to serve our country, from the firefighters to the paramedics to the men and women in law enforcement, those that lay it on the line every day for all of us. And to our combined Armed Forces, all the soldiers out there and all the squids and flyboys and jarheads, gyrenes, all those that stand tall for our beloved country anywhere across God's green earth, let me say this: That my family and I rest easy at night underneath the canopy of freedom that you deploy. I am eternally grateful, and I salute you, thank you.