SI Vault
Roy Blount Jr.
September 22, 1975
In his dreams, Pittsburgh's Mean Joe Greene pushes and pulls his way past a guard, jumps six feet over the center, slaps aside another blocker, deflects the pass, catches the ball and runs 99 yards for a touchdown
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 22, 1975

He Does What He Wants Out There

In his dreams, Pittsburgh's Mean Joe Greene pushes and pulls his way past a guard, jumps six feet over the center, slaps aside another blocker, deflects the pass, catches the ball and runs 99 yards for a touchdown

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

"My sophomore year in high school I got kicked out of nine games. No, I got kicked out of all of 'em. My junior year it was nine. I ran over a few officials. Sometimes intentionally.

"I'll tell you how crazy I used to be. A team came to Temple and beat us and afterwards—we had this little diner in town. I came in there and the other team was eating. Their quarterback had an ice cream cone. I took it away from him and smeared it all over his face. He didn't do anything. He went back to the team bus. Then I heard somebody call my name. I turned around and a soda bottle hit my chest, and the guy I'd done that way ducked back into the bus. Like a damn fool, I went at the bus. In the front door. They all went out the back door.

"But I'm not a brawler. I can't imagine getting hit in the face with a fist being any fun. I was standing in a bar in Pittsburgh. A guy came in, he was fairly good-sized, he walked straight at me. I moved, assumed he didn't see me. He came back. I moved again. He bumped me. I had the feeling this guy wanted to try me. I thought, 'Oh, oh." I stay out of those situations. They do get into life or death literally. I couldn't conceive of myself doing any harm to anybody fatally. But there's that old saying, 'Better he than me.' If you do jump into something like that, it's got to be final."

Flick. Greene makes a grabbing motion from his armchair. Then he makes a throwing motion. A dead fly bounces off the wall. "Did I get him?" he says.

"It's a heck of a thing to realize you can't do anything but play football. I'm capable of other things, but that's the only thing I know now. In college they tried to get me to go to a lot of classes and things, but I kind of lost interest. I couldn't write. Because I didn't have anything to say. You can't be descriptive about nothing."

Greene has prospered. With a friend, he has started a janitorial company. He's appeared in a few quickie films—in one of which, The Bad Black Six, he picked white motorcycle hoods up over his head and threw them. He seems a bit defensive about his movie career, though he shows up well enough on the screen. This summer he turned down a chance to star in a movie as a washed-up ballplayer. Like most ballplayers he has no taste for the rough give-and-take of business.

"Business is dirty. All of it I've been into—seems like it's unethical. They call it leverage. People are always going under the table trying to outflank you. I try to be straightforward and right."

He has trusted several agents who he feels cheated him. "When you make a lot of money fast, that's when the buzzards are thickest," he says. He is suffering currently over his estrangement from several college friends who had gone on to play pro ball. He had been involved with them in a firm that planned to represent other players and invest in real estate. Greene withdrew from the group.' 'They thought I deserted them. But we just didn't have the vehicle. We'd have wound up ripping people off, too. I'm not gonna let the snake bite me if I know it's there."

Greene is settling down. "I'm more into practice, and working out," he says. "I didn't used to have the patience for those things. This off-season I did something every day, or every other day, or every chance I got. Jog, play basketball." Steeler Strength Coach Lou Riecke brought him a set of weights in February. "I used to just lift when Lou or Chuck was looking. When they turned their heads I'd stop. But then some of the guys I used to throw around a little bit, I couldn't anymore. I'd have to spend too much energy doing it. I'm basically lazy."

This season Greene looks different. His upper body is more conventionally muscular, his distinctive spare tire is gone. He has a championship to defend. Does all this mean he will be even better?

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8