(AP) – Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene, considered one of the fiercest pass rushers in NFL history, has died. He was 58.
Greene died Monday, the family confirmed, as did the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
No cause of death was given.
“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Kevin Greene,” Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement Monday. “I regarded him as a personal friend and a true Hall of Famer in every sense. He possessed the most incredible can-do attitude of anyone I ever met. He was a great player, but more than that, he was a great man.”
Known for his long blonde locks, his relentless pursuit of the quarterback and his omnipresent charisma — which helped him in his brief career as a professional wrestler — Greene made the most of his skills.
“I wasn’t the biggest (and) I wasn’t fastest,” Greene once said. “But as long as you have a motor, you have heart … that will overcome any physical limitations.”
Greene regularly used film study to search for an opponent’s weakness.
“I figured out how to pass rush,” Greene said. “I figured out how to put a guy, an offensive tackle three to four inches taller, 80 pounds heavier, put him in a position of failure, and I did that.”
A two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, Greene finished his career with 160 sacks, which ranks third in league history behind only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198). He also had 23 forced fumbles and five interceptions.
“We lost an amazing player and person this morning with the passing of Kevin Greene,” Steelers President Art Rooney II said. “His sudden death is a shock to us all as he was a close friend and teammate to so many people in the Steelers family.
“When Kevin came to the Steelers in 1993 he had an immediate impact. Paired with Greg Lloyd, Kevin and Greg led a defense that became known as Blitzburgh and went on to play in Super Bowl 30. Kevin’s energy and enthusiasm were inspiring for our team as well as our fans.
My condolences go out to Kevin’s wife, Tara, their children and the entire Greene family in this most difficult time. They will always be members of the Steelers family and in our thoughts and prayers.”
Greene was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016.
“So sad to hear the news of Kevin Greene passing away,” said Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward. “I only had a couple of interactions with him but when we did talk he always spoke with great energy and passion.”
Added Heyward’s teammate, Stephon Tuitt, on Twitter:
“It’s a Honor to Represent this legendary Number today for you and your family. I will make y’all proud. Prayers to Kevin Greene a legend.”
Greene played 15 seasons in the NFL for four teams: the Los Angeles Rams (1985–1992), Pittsburgh Steelers (1993–1995), Carolina Panthers (1996, 1998-99) and San Francisco 49ers. He was All-Pro in 1994 and 1996.
Greene had 14 or more sacks in three different seasons, including twice with the Panthers late in his career.
He also coached for the Packers and Jets after his retirement.
“To the coach that believed in me and gave me an opportunity as a Undrafted kid as he called “Out of nowhere coconut head” to make my dreams comes true was a blessing! I will always remember your saying “there’s no substitute on kicking a man a(asterisk)(asterisk). RIP KG” tweeted Jets linebacker Frankie Luvu.
Baker said the Hall of Fame flag “will be flown at half-staff in Kevin’s memory.”