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Joe Greene - "mean Joe" Greene

texas north team tackle

Despite Greene's individual talents on the field, the Dunbar Panthers had only a mediocre record, and he was not heavily recruited by colleges. His options were further limited because the Southwest Conference was still segregated. Greene contacted North Texas State (now the University of North Texas) and was eventually offered a football scholarship.

During his first year at North Texas, Greene played middle linebacker, offensive guard, and defensive tackle on the freshman team before settling permanently into the defensive tackle position. In 1966, as a sophomore, in the first game as a starting tackle on the varsity squad, Greene and the North Texas defense held Texas Western University (now University of Texas at El Paso), a team that had tromped the Eagles the previous year, to minus-forty yards rushing. Sidney Sue Graham, the wife of the North Texas sports information director, thought her husband should come up with a catchy name for the overpowering defense. Given that the school colors were bright green and white, she suggested "mean green." The next week the name began appearing in North Texas press releases and it stuck, soon replacing Eagles as the team's official nickname. It was a natural step to apply the label to the team's All-American, and Joe Greene became "Mean Joe" Greene.

Greene, who remained a gentle giant off the field, insisted the nickname didn't fit him, but those who watched his hard-hitting, no-holds-barred play on the field couldn't agree. During his junior year Greene married Agnes Craft. Also a student at North Texas, she was the daughter of a Dallas businessman, and together they had three children. For the three years that Greene played varsity football at North Texas, the team record stood at 23-5-1. As a senior, he was the unanimous choice as the top defensive lineman in the nation and was attracting the attention of nearly every team in the NFL.

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