Photo by Theo Tate
Former NFL standout and Granite City High South graduate Kevin Greene speaks to the audience on Saturday at Memorial Gym. Greene will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
In less than three months, Kevin Greene will be at Canton, Ohio, as he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The former Granite City South football standout would like to see the Granite City Marching Warriors band in Ohio, too.
“I think I’ll be cheering you guys on,” Greene said.
GCHS honored Greene by having Meet Hall of Famer Kevin Greene Day at Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday. The one-hour event was part of a fundraiser to help the Marching Warriors go on a trip to Ohio to perform in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival.
“Ever since we heard that we were invited to perform in the NFL Hall of Fame parade, we have been on a fundraising roller coaster,” Marching Warriors director Wyatt Roberds said. “It’s been a great ride. Today’s event has completed seven fundraisers that we put together over the last three months, which is a huge thing for us. We want to make sure that these students have a chance to march in this parade. It’s going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The Marching Warriors have raised more than $35,000. Their goal is to raise $50,000 to cover the cost of transportation and lodging for 185 members of the band. On Saturday, GCS Credit Union in Granite City gave the Marching Warriors a check for $2,720.
“When he (Roberds) was up here talking about all of the funds that they raised at this time, I was blown away,” Greene said.
Greene played for four teams in his 15-year NFL career. He’s among the league career leaders in sacks with 160 and played in the Pro Bowl five times.
Greene also worked as an outside linebacker coach of the Green Bay Packers. He was part of an NFL championship team for the first time after the Packers won Super Bowl XLV.
Jerry McKechan, a member of the Granite City Board of Education, said he was glad to see Greene return to his alma mater. Earlier this month, the Board of Education named the football field after Greene.
“Granite City High School is an extended family of Kevin,” said McKechan, one of Greene’s coaches in high school. “He returned to our school several times and spoke to our senior class and athletes.”
One of those times came in July 2002. The final day of the three-day Granite City Warriors freshman football camp was coming down to its final hour when Greene surprisingly showed up. All of the freshmen were lined up on the wall of Coolidge Middle School when then-Granite City head football coach Nick Petrillo introduced Greene, who was on his way to Macomb to attend the St. Louis training camp. He came to visit Petrillo, who was one of his old football coaches, and spent about five minutes talking about football to the freshmen campers.
After that, Greene, who was retired from the NFL for three years at the time, wanted to help out the Granite City athletic department.
“He came out and we walked around and we showed him our new weight room,” said McKechan, the Warriors’ athletic director in 2002. “Our weight room is the finest one in Southern Illinois and we’re very proud of it. The first thing he said, ‘What else do you guys need?’ Right there on the spot, he took out his checkbook and paid for all of the new mirrors in the weight room. That’s how much he cared about Granite City High School. He also purchased a new stereo system for our weight room, new helmets and new shoulder pads for our football team. Kevin hasn’t forgotten where he has come from.”
Greene grew up in a military family. He stayed at Granite City for just four years from 1976-1980; all of them were at South High School. During that time, the Granite City School District had two high schools — North and South.
“I first got to meet the Greene family in the mid-1970s,” McKechan said. “Kevin’s father was in the Army and was stationed at the Granite City Army Depot. They settled here in Granite City from Germany. Kevin’s older brother, Keith, was one of the first of Col. Greene’s family to play football here in Granite City. He played for two years and then Kevin moved up and took Keith’s spot and went on to build a career in the U.S. Army. Col. Greene believed in setting goals and both Kevin and Keith followed their mother, Patricia, and Col. Greene’s examples of setting goals and priorities and the following goals that they set were God, country and family.”
Greene was a three-sport athlete at Granite City South. He played football and basketball and competed in track.
“Make no mistake,” Greene said. “My four years here were, I think in my opinion, the turning point of my life in so many ways. But it really started my passion and that burning desire to go out and do something special with my life.”
Greene played college football for Auburn University after graduating from Granite City South in 1980. Greene said McKechan did an outstanding job preparing him for the college level.
“He continued to remind me of my dream and what it will take to fulfill my dream,” Greene said. “So for that, I love coach McKechan.”
Greene said Petrillo also was a big help. Petrillo, who was at Saturday’s event, played Greene at wide receiver while he was a member of the freshman football team.
“He put me in a position to make plays and just coach me and cared for me,” Greene said. “You can tell when a coach cares for you.”
During his 22-minute speech, Greene talked about four things that helped him turn in an outstanding pro football career. They were setting his mind, mastering great fundamentals and technique, becoming a student of the game and playing with heart.
“Fifteen years in the NFL was a never ending process of refining basic fundamentals and technique to help me continue to play in the level that I want to play at,” Greene said.
Greene also answered several questions from band members. One of them asked what would Greene do if he didn’t play in the NFL.
Greene responded by talking about his military career. He served as a captain during a 16-year Army Reserve career and got his U.S. Army commission by attending ROTC at Auburn.
“I kind of looked at football as a part-time job, so it was cool,” Greene said. “I was never deployed, so I’m definitely no hero. I enjoyed my time in the military and the brotherhood that I felt with all of the other soldiers that I trained and I appreciated them.”
Greene earned a spot into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 6. The ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 6.
Roberds said he and his band can’t wait to see Greene again in Ohio this summer.
“It’s going to be a great event,” Roberds said. “I can guarantee that we’re going to make this happen. With the generosity in this community, this community has been amazing. It absolutely blows me away and obviously we would like to thank Mr. Kevin Greene for his attendance.”
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