1969: “Mean Joe Greene”
If it was Chuck Noll’s task to resurrect a moribund football franchise when he was hired as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969, then Charles Edward “Mean Joe” Greene surely was the rock on which he would build his team.
Mean Joe would go on to be among the greatest and most iconic athletes in Pittsburgh sports history, but when Noll made the defensive tackle from North Texas State the fourth overall pick in the 1969 draft, there was a brief furor that the team had passed on Notre Dame quarterback and Butler native Terry Hanratty.
In the Jan. 29, 1969 Post-Gazette, sports writer Jack Sell wrote:
“The Steelers yesterday drafted a guy named Joe as the No. 1 choice in the combined NFL-AFL college player lottery. That failed to send a single season ticket buyer to the club’s office in Hotel Roosevelt.
“When news of Greene’s selection was made public, it got a rude reception from Steeler rooters, who have watched the local club foul up in the past. They were disgusted that Hanratty was passed.”
Noll remained firm on the draft pick.
"Most of the pro scouts rate Joe Greene from North Texas State as the greatest college defensive lineman in action,” he said of Greene at the time.
The Steelers selected Hanratty in the second round, though his career was spent mostly as a backup to standout quarterback Terry Bradshaw, drafted the following year. Greene, however, went on to arguably become the greatest player in team history.
A fierce competitor and a terror to opposing offenses, Greene earned his Mean Joe nickname on the field, but was regarded as a gentle giant off of it.
Later that year, when he signed his first professional contract, a photographer asked him to smile at the press conference.
“Smile?” Greene replied. “I’m not supposed to smile. I’m supposed to be mean.”
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