Former Green Bay Packers’ offensive lineman Forrest Gregg, whom Vince Lombardi once described as “the best player I ever coached,” died Friday in Colorado Springs, Col.
He was 85.
The Pro Football Hall-of-Fame announced Gregg’s death but did not disclose a cause.
Nicknamed “Iron Man,” Gregg played in 188 consecutive games during his Hall-of-Fame career and was named to nine Pro Bowls and eight All-Pro teams played on seven NFL championship clubs, including three Super Bowl winners, and was named to the NFL’s 1960s’ all-decade and 75th anniversary teams.
Gregg played mostly right tackle, though he moved to guard in emergencies, and was a key member of the Packers’ dynasty of the 1960s. Like teammate Herb Adderley, he finished his career in Dallas, where he won his third and final Super Bowl in January, 1972.
Along with former teammate Fuzzy Thurston and Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, Gregg and Adderley are the only players to serve on six teams that won NFL championships.
“He was a legendary player for the team, one of the greatest in our history,” said Green Bay president and CEO Mark Murphy. “The ultimate team player, he raised the level of play of those around him. He also had a great connection with the organization over the years."
Following his playing career, Gregg went into coaching and served 11 seasons in the NFL as a head coach at Cleveland (1975-77), Cincinnati (1980-83) and Green Bay (1984-87). In 1981, he led the Bengals to their first-ever Super Bowl, a 26-21 loss to San Francisco in Super Bowl XVI.
“It’s a sad day here,” Bengals’ President Mike Brown said of the passing of Gregg. “My memories of Forrest are very special. He not only was the coach of the team, but we were also good friends.
“As a coach, he was very successful here. We had good people, good players, and he got the best out of them. He was demanding. The players didn’t try to cut corners. 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.”
Though Gregg was 32-25 with the Bengals, the club in 1984 allowed him to opt out of his contract to succeed his friend and former teammate, Bart Starr, as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. He would stay there until 1988 when he voluntarily left the club to coach SMU, his alma mater.
Gregg was 75-85-1 as an NFL head coach and 2-2 in the playoffs. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011.
“The game lost a giant today,” said Hall-of-Fame president and CEO David Baker. “Forrest Gregg exemplified greatness during a Hall-of-Fame career that earned him a bronzed bust in Canton.
“He was the type of player who led by example and, in doing so, raised the level of play of all those around him. 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 Pro Football Hall of Fame will be flown at half-staff until Gregg is buried.
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