Former Carolina Panthers star defensive player dies Monday at 58

By Richard Walker

Former Carolina Panthers defensive star Kevin Greene (right) with former Panthers play-by-play announcer Bill Rosinski. [Bill Rosinski twitter photo]
Carolina Panthers fans joined NFL fans on Monday in mourning the death of one of the most colorful and talented players in team and league history.

NFL Hall of Famer Kevin Greene, who played for the Panthers in 1996, 1998 and 1999, died Monday at his home in Alabama. He was 58.

A fifth-round draft pick out of Auburn in 1985 by the Los Angeles Rams, Greene also played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Panthers and San Francisco 49ers in his 15-year career. He later coached for the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets.

His May 21, 1996 free agent signing with the Panthers for a two-year, $2 million contract gave the franchise credibility as it prepared for its second season as a franchise.

And Greene and fellow linebackers Lamar Lathon and Sam Mills were key reasons Carolina stunned the NFL world by advancing all the way to the 1996 NFC title game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

Greene’s interest in the Panthers was borne of his long relationship with then-Carolina head coach Dom Capers; Capers was defensive coordinator during Greene’s last two years playing for the Steelers (1993-94) and during his first five seasons as Packers assistant coach (2009-13).

In 2016, Greene was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame; Greene, Reggie White and Bill Polian are the only individuals to play or work for the Panthers to be so honored.

“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Kevin Greene,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a news release. “I regarded him as a personal friend and a true Hall of Famer in every sense. He possessed the most incredible can-do attitude of anyone I ever met. He was a great player, but more than that, he was a great man. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kevin’s wife, Tara, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Kevin’s memory.”

A five-time Pro Bowler, three-time first team All-Pro and two-time NFL sacks leader, Greene was named 1996 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in his first season with the Panthers.

Greene added to his fandom by twice participating in World Championship Wrestling, including a May 1997 match where he teammed with Roddy Piper and Charlotte’s Ric Flair.