Pro Football Hall of Famer Kevin Greene has passed away at the age of 58, the NFL reported on Monday. The iconic linebacker played for the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers in a career that spanned 15 years. No cause of death has been announced.
Greene, considered one of the most effective pass rushers in the history of the NFL, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016 after a career that included two All-Pro and five Pro Bowl selections. Greene finished his playing days with a total of 160 sacks, fewer only than Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198) in league history.
Following his retirement, Greene coached for the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets.
“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. “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. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kevin’s wife, Tara, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Kevin’s memory.”
Greene began his NFL career with the Rams after being selected in the fifth round of the 1985 draft. The blond linebacker would stay with the franchise for eight seasons before moving to Pittsburgh to spend an impactful three years with the Steelers. Greene went on to spend a year each with the Panthers, then the 49ers, before returning to Carolina to see out the remainder of his career.
“We lost an amazing player and person this morning with the passing of Kevin Greene. 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,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement.
“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 XXX. 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.”
Following his NFL career, Greene became popular with pro wrestling fans after featuring heavily in World Championship Wrestling. Greene teamed with fellow former NFL players Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael in his WCW debut, losing to WWE Hall of Famers Ric Flair and Arn Anderson.
“WWE is saddened to learn that Kevin Greene passed away today at the age of 58,” the WWE said in a statement.
“Near the end of a career as one of the NFL’s most feared pass rushers, Greene entered the squared circle for WCW. Upon his arrival, Greene teamed with fellow NFL player Steve McMichael and would go on to share the ring with some of the biggest names in sports-entertainment. The Pro Football Hall of Famer teamed with Roddy Piper and Ric Flair against Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Syxx in a victory at Slamboree in May of 1997. In his last run with WCW, Greene teamed with Goldberg against nWo Black & White.
“WWE extends its condolences to Greene’s family and friends.”
Greene won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers as a linebackers coach in 2011. Key figure in that championship run, Clay Matthews, took to social media following the death of Greene to express his sadness and share the impact Greene had on him and his career.
Now a free agent, Matthews was only in his second year as a professional during the Super Bowl victory season and the 34-year-old attributes a lot of his development during the early phase of his career to Greene. Matthews would go on to spend another nine seasons with the Packers before spending last year with the Rams.
“Absolutely terrible news to hear of KG’s passing. Truly heartbreaking!” Matthews tweeted.
“KG was a warrior on the field, and he brought his same fire and tenacity to his coaching. So much of my success was a direct result of him, but he was so much more than a coach.
“He often referred to me and the other OLBs as his kids and taught us how to be a professional in all aspects of life. I’ll miss the conversations we continued to have, but the stories of KG will live on forever. RIP Sackmaster!”