by | Jan 25, 1996 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

“He’s gonna have to lose that Fabio thing. It just ain’t working.”

Deion Sanders on Kevin Greene TEMPE, Ariz. — Well, fine, Deion. You be the one to tell him. I personally have no intention of walking up to Kevin Greene — a man who holds military rank, can bench-press large appliances, is the nightmare of NFL quarterbacks and who once impressed a scout by saying he was “locked and loaded” during the LA riot, ready to do battle, even though his house was 35 miles away — I am not about to tell a man like that his hair is too long.

Granted, he does have a little Fabio thing going. The hair is straight and blond, cascading off his forehead and down past his shoulders, and when he stands there, all barrel-chested and tightly muscled, it does look like he could be wearing a silk shirt, ripped open to the chest, as he leans over a cliff with a high-cleavaged woman in his arms. . . .

But you have to understand. It’s all a joke. The hair? It’s a dare. In truth, Kevin Greene would more likely be the guy to yell “get a haircut, you hippie” than to be the yellee. These flowing blond locks are merely a kick, a thing he started and now keeps going, a rebellion against his father, a retired Army colonel, who believed in crew cuts, five-mile runs before breakfast, and teaching Kevin the art of football by putting him in a circle with his older brother and instructing them to hit one another, over and over, no matter how hurt they got.

“The hair is kind of a dig at him, yeah,” Greene admits, even though, at 33, he’s a little late for teenage rebellion. “It’s a dig at my wife, too. She wants me to cut it off. But I said, ‘Nuh-uh. I’m not cutting it off until we win the Super Bowl.’ “

And then? If you win?

“I go back to the old high and tight,” he says.

Code word for crew cut.

The old high and tight? Talk like a drill sergeant

Well, this is how Kevin Greene speaks. Like a drill sergeant. Like Robert Duvall in “Apocalypse Now.” High and tight! Lock and load! I love the smell of napalm in the morning. . . .

Let’s get ready to rummmbble!

Oh yes, we should mention his little Wrestlemania incident Tuesday night. Greene flew to Las Vegas — a short hop from Tempe — to attend a tag team Clash of Champions, where he “worked” the corner of his wrestling hero, Hulk Hogan.

I know. He looks like Hulk Hogan.

But he didn’t always.

Kevin Greene warrants a second look — not only because, if you take your eye off him, he will probably sack you, the way he hopes to sack Dallas’ Troy Aikman on Sunday, the way he accumulated 35 1/2 sacks in the last three seasons. It may seem like Greene is merely fulfilling his destiny as a comic book super hero linebacker, but he was not born into this job.

On the contrary. Greene was a walk-on at Auburn years ago, and not as a linebacker, but — get this, hold your breath, it’s gonna kill you — as a punter.

That’s right. A punter! And he wasn’t good enough! He wound up quitting the team, returning to ROTC and going through several non-football years at college. Of course, all those sessions with his father taught him never to give up. As a kid, Kevin’s family moved from military base to military base, living in Kansas, Alabama, Germany, New York, Germany again, Illinois and Washington. In a life like that, you learn to adapt or you’re finished.

Greene adapted. At Auburn, after quitting the team, he hit the weight room, rebuilt himself, drank mass quantities of protein supplements. Three years later, he found himself 50 pounds heavier and immeasurably stronger. Bye-bye, punting. Soon he was starting for Auburn as a defensive end, and knocking down the quarterbacks. He was drafted by the LA Rams, stayed there eight years, made the Pro Bowl, led the club in sacks, and finally decided that team was going nowhere (except, perhaps, St. Louis).

So he left and signed with Pittsburgh, a team and town that were, finally, as tough as he was.

Lock and load. Super focused

In a media session this week, someone asked Greene about his upcoming free-agent status. He began to fume.

“Who cares about that now? Sunday is the only thing that matters now. Heck, I can never play another game of football after this if it goes right. How can thinking about anything but this game help me at all? What’s the matter with you? Why would I think about that stuff now?”

I’m not sure, but I think the man who asked that question just signed up for karate lessons.

But such is the force of Greene. He and Greg Lloyd give Pittsburgh the most feared pass rush in the league. And his coach, Bill Cowher, fits right in.

“Coach Cowher is great,” Greene says. “He yells at you, he gets in your face, he spits, he slobbers. And if you knock a guy out of bounds in front of him, he’s liable to throw a forearm into the guy if no one’s looking.”

His kind of guy.

So maybe his hair is too long. Maybe it looks stupid and affected. Maybe he’d be better off with the old high and tight, right now.

Maybe we should tell him. . . .

“Kevin,” someone asks, “describe the upcoming game.”

“Man, its gonna be war, two juggernauts, lined up head to head, toe to toe, for 15 rounds, a real rumble, a real war, man!”

On second thought, where’s Deion? . . .


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