GREEN BAY – A laundry list of accomplishments paved the way for Kevin Greene’s upcoming induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month.
A 15-year NFL veteran, Greene punched his ticket to Canton through production and durability. He was selected to the Pro Bowl five times and named first-team all-pro on three occasions. His 160 career sacks rank third on the all-time list.
While it was his work on the field that fashioned Greene’s Hall of Fame bust, that’s not the only thing that makes him smile when reflecting back on his time in the NFL.
Greene, speaking with reporters on a national conference call Thursday, said he also takes a great deal of pride in the five years he spent with Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
Ten years after playing his final NFL snap, Greene was brought to Green Bay in 2009 as an outside linebackers coach on the staff of incoming defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
When he turns on the TV these days, Greene sees a lot of himself in his protégé.
“I would say when I look at Clay, obviously I see a lot of the things that I taught him or at least before he made that transition to be an inside linebacker,” said Greene, who coached for five seasons before stepping down following the 2013 season to spend more time with his family.
After taking B.J. Raji with the ninth overall pick in 2009, the Packers traded back into the first round to take Matthews with the 26th overall pick.
While he had an obvious NFL pedigree, there were a lot of unknowns about Matthews at first. A former walk-on, Matthews was new to playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme after playing elephant end for the Trojans.
It turned out to be the perfect marriage. With Greene’s guidance, Matthews recorded 111 tackles and 23½ sacks in their first two seasons together. He’s since developed into a six-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
“I think I really instilled in him really how to play this position,” Greene said. “He had some stuff to him but he just listened, he applied, he implemented it and things when I showed him. He ended up doing it the right way and it shows in his play.”
Soon after Greene was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he reached out to Capers and asked his mentor to present him during the Aug. 6 ceremony.
Greene said it was his initial conversation with Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher and Capers, the Steelers’ defensive coordinator at the time, that led to him signing there as a free agent in 1993.
Greene spent four seasons with Capers between Pittsburgh (1993-94) and Carolina (1996, 98), tallying 56 sacks and five forced fumbles. That production in the second half of his career helped establish his Hall of Fame resume.
“I think a presenter really should be somebody who had a remarkable impact on your life, really affected your life the most,” Greene said.
“Dom he brought me to Pittsburgh and put me in a position to have an impact in games. When he was a head coach at Carolina Panthers, he brought me to the new Panthers and put me in a position to impact games.
“Dom has had a tremendous impact on my football career and my family, helping provide for my family very well over the years.”
A long wait to get the call to the Hall of Fame gave Greene time for reflection. While he says he wasn’t the most athletic or gifted, Greene made his mark on the game with his work ethic and a relentless motor.
In Green Bay, he enjoyed handing down the pass-rushing lessons he learned to Matthews and the rest of the Packers’ outside linebackers.
“I really figured out how to pass rush,” Greene said. “I figured out how to put an offensive tackle that was three or four inches taller than me, outweighed me 80-100 pounds, and I figured out how to put him in a position of failure and I did that.
“Can’t really share with you what that is how I figured it out, but obviously I shared it with Clay up in Green Bay and so forth. And it works. That’s how I was able to be productive until the end of my career.”