Mean Joe Greene statue unveiled outside Apogee

Mean Joe Greene statue unveiled outside Apogee

Mean Joe Greene statue unveiled outside Apogee
October 08
15:06 2018

UNT honored its most notable athlete in school history this past Saturday as part of Championship Weekend. 

Before the game against Louisiana Tech, hundreds gathered to see a 12-foot bronze statue of Joe Greene unveiled outside Apogee Stadium.

President Neal Smatresk greeted the crowd and addressed special guests as he initiated the ceremony.

“Joe is unquestionably the greatest football player in UNT history and one of the greatest defensive tackles ever in the NFL,” Smatresk said. “We are so grateful to have this cavalcade of stars coming out.”

Greene, now 72, was joined by his mother Cleo Greene, his wife Charlotte and all three of his children and seven grandchildren. High school and college teammates were also in attendance as he walked down memory lane, sharing stories and thanking those who helped him along the way.

“We learned from one another,” Greene said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for a lot of guys, and that’s these guys right here today.”

National Football League Hall of Fame members Tony Dorsett, Charles Haley and Pittsburgh teammate Franco Harris attended for the ceremony. Greene thanked and recognized each of them as he shared playful stories from his days in the NFL.

Greene began his football career in Temple, Texas, at Dunbar High School — now known as Temple High School — and received very little recruiting attention. Eventually receiving a scholarship to play college football at then-North Texas State University, Greene played on the varsity team for three years from 1966 to 1968.

While at North Texas, Greene played defensive tackle and helped lead the Mean Green to a 23-5-1 record. In those 29 games, Greene and the North Texas defense held opponents to under 2 yards per carry.

That defensive unit is also responsible for the school record for fewest total yards allowed in a season and the fewest rushing yards allowed in a season. Earning All-Missouri Valley Conference honors three consecutive years, Greene also became North Texas’ only Consensus All-American selection to date.

Joe Greene looks at the statue unveiled for the first time with a crowd of family, friends and former teammates. Trevon McWilliams

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Greene in the 1969 NFL draft with the fourth overall pick. Since the inception of the Steelers in 1933, the team sported a record of 162-267-19. Looking to turn the franchise around, Art Rooney took a chance on the North Texas product.

“I did not want to be a Steeler,” Greene said in “A Football Life,” a 2014 documentary.

The addition of Greene was an unpopular pick for many Steelers fans because they wanted someone who would generate more excitement, and Joe Greene was an unknown name at the time. Greene’s talent and tenacity took the NFL by storm, earning him rookie defensive player of the year honors, and he became the cornerstone upon which the Steelers would build their dynasty.

Also contributing to the talent Greene brought, the Steelers added L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes to their defensive line, making them the most dominant group the NFL had seen, coining the “Steel Curtain” moniker.

In 13 seasons with the Steelers, Greene’s resume included four Super Bowl championships, 10 Pro Bowl invitations, five first-team All-Pro selections, two second-team All-Pro selections and defensive player of the year twice. Greene played 181 out of 190 games.

Despite the monicker, Greene said he doesn’t want to be remembered as a mean person, but rather as a good football player.

“Doing the Coca-Cola spot did change the image,” Greene said. “I enjoyed it — I liked it. It made me more approachable.”

Greene was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1987 on first ballot honors. He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-time Team and the NFL 1970s all-decade team, and his jersey is the second jersey to be retired in Steelers history.

Fifty years and a full career later, Greene came back to where it all started to see his legacy cemented outside Apogee stadium.

The long wait to unveil a statue for the Greene is due to a mix of scenarios. Between Greene having to travel with his coaching career soon after his career as a player and building Apogee Stadium, the timing for a permanent structure was held off.

“When I got here, there had been some discussions on building a statue for Joe sometime,” said Wren Baker, vice president and director of athletics. “We got to the place where we decided the time is now.”

Athletics received donations to support the project, which costs an estimated $150,000.

The Green Brigade began the drum roll as Greene began to uncover the statue, and “Terrible Towels” were being waved in the crowd as they once did for Greene in his days as a Pittsburg Steeler.

The 8-foot statue sits on a 4-foot pedestal, made entirely out of bronze and sculpted by Brian Hanlon. Hanlon has created statues for other iconic athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.

The statue features Greene in a classic football stance with arms up in front of his body with palms open and slightly bent at the knees while taking a step.

Greene ended the ceremony by drinking a Coca-Cola in its entirety as he did in the commercial. Green stayed for a few minutes after for pictures and autographs.

“I think the timing is perfect,” Baker said. “Joe is at a time in his life where he is not working, he lives near, his children are all here and he can enjoy it.”

Featured Image: President Neal Smatresk along with special guests honored alumni athlete Joe Greene with a bronze statue Saturday before the game against Louisiana Tech. Trevon McWilliams

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Josue Hernandez

Josue Hernandez

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