Lessons from Kevin Greene’s Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech

Player, Coach, Father, Husband, Son, Leader, Ass Kicker

Kevin Greene was a leader. In his 15 years in the NFL, and his many other years coaching and raising a family, he earned that designation many times over. As Dom Capers, his coach in Pittsburgh and Carolina, described him, “He influenced everybody that he was around. Everyone had a tremendous amount of respect for him because he not only produced as a player, but because as good of a player as he was he was an even better person.”

Failing to make the Auburn team as a punter, Greene played intramural football before making the varsity team as a walk-on defensive end in his senior year. While undersized, he made up for it with commitment and grit. As he once said, “I wasn’t the biggest, I wasn’t the fastest. But as long as you have a motor, you have heart…that will overcome any physical limitations.”

He’d go on to become a 5-time Pro Bowler and finish his career with 160 sacks, third most of all time. In 2016, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and, in his acceptance speech, offered some insight into his leadership style. With his untimely and unfortunate passing, it’s worth returning to a few of his timely — and timeless — messages.

Throughout his speech, Greene emphasized the contribution of those around him, constantly sharing credit with others. No one succeeds on their own. And great performances rarely arise out of a vacuum. The sooner we all realize this, the better we can focus on leveraging — and contributing to — all of the talents around us.

When you’re a part of a team, it’s not necessarily about how talented you are, but about what you have to contribute. Greene would credit one of these greatest contributions to his dad, a retired full colonel and Vietnam veteran. His dad showed him the importance of being actively engaged in the present. He also emphasized the importance of stepping in to lead, even if that comes with initial discomfort,

Well before growth mindset became a management buzzword, Greene thrived on challenge. He sought out the best opposition and used struggle as a springboard for growth. As he reflected on his time at Auburn,

After 15 years, Greene recognized the value of enough. He chose to leave the game on a positive note, on his own terms, and having no regrets that he played with heart and passion every time he walked onto the field. While it’s difficult to ever know the right time to leave anything, the high points and the ending will always define our legacy. More importantly, there’s a lot more to life than any job.

Most relevant to today, with the quantity of healthcare and front line workers that put themselves at risk every day to support a country that is doing the bare minimum to support them, it’s important to remember the sacrifices of others. It’s important to remember that there are many people who put themselves at far greater risk than the rest of us. And they deserve our gratitude and our support.

RIP Kevin Greene.

Enemy of the Status Quo.

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