Kevin Greene, Hall of Fame pass rusher for Rams, Steelers and Panthers, dies at 58

Pro Football Hall of Fame outside linebacker Kevin Greene stands on the sideline.
Pro Football Hall of Fame outside linebacker Kevin Greene stands on the sideline before a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals in September 2019.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Kevin Greene, who went from a college walk-on to one of the most ferocious NFL pass rushers of his generation, has died. He was 58.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame said Greene died Monday but the cause of death was not disclosed.

“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Kevin Greene,” said David Baker, the Hall’s president and chief executive. “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.”

Greene, who walked on at Auburn, was a fifth-round pick of the Rams in 1985 and played eight seasons for them. He later played for Pittsburgh, Carolina (two stints) and San Francisco. He was a defensive end and linebacker, depending on the scheme, made five Pro Bowls, and was named the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 1996.

Rams linebacker Kevin Greene looks on during the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Rams linebacker Kevin Greene looks on during the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers in January 1990.
(George Rose / Getty Images)

He amassed 160 career sacks, third in NFL history, forced 23 fumbles, recovered 26 fumbles and intercepted five passes. A member of the NFL’s all-decade team of the 1990s, he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2016.

“He was a heat-seeking missile on the field,” said his agent, Leigh Steinberg. “He had an uncanny ability to find the quarterback and sack him. Off the field, he was ‘Yes, sir. No, sir.’ Old school military, with a sterling work ethic.”

After he retired from playing, Greene had a couple of stints in World Championship Wrestling — his chiseled build and flowing blond hair made him a natural — and won a Super Bowl ring as an outside linebackers coach for the Green Bay Packers.

Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater, a teammate with the Rams, was stunned by the news. They saw each other at the latest Super Bowl, and Slater recalled that Greene was recovering well from a recent double hip replacement. They texted back and forth, as Greene’s son, Gavin, is a defensive lineman at Mississippi College.


“Kevin was asking me about techniques to beat offensive tackles,” Slater said.

Slater recalled Greene as “relentless in practice.”

“This was during the time when we practiced in practice. We didn’t show up and pussyfoot around,” Slater said. “Our drills were live. We hit, we pass blocked, we pass rushed. Every day was full-go, game tempo.

“Kevin was the epitome of a professional when it came to practicing as a rugged teammate and competitor. If you could block Kevin Greene in practice, you didn’t have any concerns about anybody else. Simple as that.”

Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, another Rams teammate, said that when Greene was coaching the Packers, he was determined to stop Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson from breaking Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. Peterson finished with 2,097 yards in 2012, eight yards shy of Dickerson’s mark.

“Kevin took it personal,” Dickerson said.

“The thing that everyone will remember about Kevin is that smile,” he said. “Just a good guy.”