Biggest In The Class
Joe Greene was born Charles Edward Greene on September 24, 1946 in Temple, Texas. He was the oldest of three children, and after his father walked out on the family when Greene was ten years old, he helped his mother, Cleo Thomas, by taking care of his younger siblings after school. Later, Greene picked cotton to supplement his mother's modest earnings as a domestic.
Always the biggest kid in his class, Greene, who early in his life was nicknamed Joe by an aunt, assumed
the reputation as a bully even though he was quite shy and reserved, but his size coupled with his quiet, serious personality proved intimidating. Determined to make a better life for himself and his family, Greene dreamed of a college education; however, football soon came calling. In junior high coaches began urging the youngster to try sports. Greene quickly discovered he had little natural talent for catching baseballs and decided basketball involved too much running. As an eighth-grader he played on the junior varsity football team and fell in love with the game. Later, he also threw the discus and shotput in track, winning a state championship.
As a sophomore at Dunbar, an all-black high school in Temple, Greene became the starting middle linebacker. In eighth grade, Greene had weighed 158 pounds; by his senior year, he weighed 250 pounds. Although he was considered big for a linebacker, Greene loved the position. As he improved, his confidence both on and off the field blossomed. His sometimes overly aggressive personality earned him a reputation as a dirty player, and he was ejected from numerous games. But, to Greene, football was war, and he was determined to fight to the death.