Packers’ legend passes at age 85
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Forrest Gregg, the great Hall of Fame lineman for the mighty Green Bay Packers of the 1960s that Vince Lombardi called the “finest player I ever coached,” died Friday at age 85.
Barbara Gregg said her husband of 59 years died in Colorado Springs from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
“I lost my sweetheart this morning,” she said. “It’s awful. He died in my arms.”
She said that in the last two weeks her husband received a constant flow of calls from former teammates and players telling him he’d made such a big difference in their lives.
“I’m overwhelmed at the amount of people that loved Forrest, of the number of players that said he made men out of them,” she said. “Forrest loved people. He loved everybody. He loved his children. He loved me. And it just broke my heart. My heart is broken.”
She said the funeral will be sometime next week in Colorado Springs and open to the public.
Other survivors include their son, Forrest Gregg Jr., of Cincinnati, and daughter, Karen Gregg-Spehar, of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Hall of Fame president David Baker described Gregg, who was enshrined in 1977, as a “giant” who “exemplified greatness during a legendary career.”
“He was the type of player who led by example and, in doing so, raised the level of play of all those around him,” Baker said. “Forrest symbolized many great traits and virtues that can be learned from this game to inspire people from all walks of life.”
The flag at the hall will be flown at half-staff in Gregg’s honor.
Gregg, who earned the nickname “Iron Man” for playing in a then-record 188 consecutive games during his career, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in October 2011. He quickly embarked on a campaign to raise public awareness about the incurable disease, urging others to seek treatment early enough to delay the degenerative effects on both the mind and body.
His family and his neurologist said the disease may have been related to numerous concussions he suffered during his playing career in the 1950s at SMU, and from 1956-71 with the Packers and Dallas Cowboys.
Gregg never blamed football for his health ailments, however. He refused to join concussion lawsuits against the NFL and said he still would have chosen to play the sport if he’d known there would be a hefty price to pay later in life.
In an interview with The Associated Press in 2013, Gregg said he didn’t begrudge those who sued the league, but he had his pensions from his playing and coaching days, and “I don’t need anything from anybody but what I earned.”
A guard and tackle, Gregg is one of four NFL players to win a-half dozen NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls with the Packers. Gregg finished his career with another Super Bowl title with the Cowboys in 1971. The six-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler was elected to the NFL’s all-decade team of the 1960s and to its 75th anniversary team.
He went on to coach in the NFL for 11 years with the Browns, Bengals and Packers.
Bengals president Mike Brown on Friday recalled his good friend as one who got the best out of his players.
“He was demanding. The players didn’t try to cut corners,” Brown said in a statement. “They went out and did what they had to do, and what we were doing worked. We were somewhat ahead of the curve at the time.”
After playing 15 NFL seasons, Gregg won 75 games as an NFL head coach and guided the Bengals to their first Super Bowl during the 1981 season, when they lost 26-21 to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers.