I don’t need my football players to be pleasant. I like them to be strong, resilient, violent, and full of colorful metaphors.
I’ve always respected people who approach life aggressively, and I respect athletes who play with a chip on their shoulder. I like when people take their jobs seriously and complete their tasks so well they don’t need to “schmooze” or sugar coat their personalities. I like people who are strictly business.
No wonder one of my favorite football players would wear a muscle tee under his shoulder pads that read “I WASN’T HIRED FOR MY DISPOSITION."
In the 1980s, there were only a few bright spots for the Pittsburgh Steelers. While fans and teammates struggled with offensive players like Bubby Brister and Tim Worley, they never had to worry about the linebackers on defense. And few linebackers brightened those dark days more than Greg Lloyd, a man who was ejected from his first NFL game for punching Broncos quarterback Gary Kubiak in the face.
Greg Lenard Lloyd, Sr. was born in Miami but raised in a broken home in Fort Valley, Georgia. He grew up the youngest of nine children, all abandoned by their mother when Lloyd was two. Scorned and bitter, Lloyd turned the rage into brutal play on the gridiron. Here's his explanation for one of his earliest aggressive acts:
"I'd be playing against these kids and they'd have their parents up in the stands rooting and hollering for them, and I would get very mad. I'd say to myself, 'I'm going to break your Johnny's nose.' I'd try to kill the kid and then look up in the stands at his parents. Back then, it was the best way I knew how to deal with the anger."
That a boy.
He played college ball at Fort Valley State before being drafted by the Steelers in 1987. A knee injury kept him from starting until ’89. His dominance on the outside of the 3-4 defense began in ’91. Lloyd was one of the first components of the rebuild that took the team to Super Bowl XXX. He finished his career with 54.5 sacks in 147 games, earning his way to 5 Pro Bowls & 1994 Defensive Player of the Year. Not bad for a 6th-round pick.
In the Three Rivers days, Pittsburghers celebrated our fearsome linebacker with a banner that hung on the second tier of the north endzone that read “AVOID LLOYD” in large block letters. The slogan served fair warning to visitors of the physical specimen that was Greg Lloyd: 6’2”, 225 lbs, with 6% body fat. He was the forefather of the “cut-up” players we see today. You only begin to appreciate his explosiveness and overall brute strength when you realize he did all of it without ACLs in either knee. Some say he dispensed illegal blows, using the helmet improperly, hitting quarterbacks late, and trying to dismember offensive players rather than simply tackling them. Many of the criticizing detractors were the ones on the receiving end of his wicked blows, like Brett Favre, who Lloyd once hit so hard the NFL fined him $12,000.
Lloyd was widely known as a media recluse, but when you got him to speak, it was usually good. It didn’t matter if it was speaking out against the disrespectful kids in an autograph line or his thoughts on the conclusion of the ’95 AFC Championship game, it usually was biting, raw, and full of expletives. He took a firm stance on criticizing NFL brass when they started protecting, or better “babying," quarterbacks in the early ‘90s. An obvious precursor to James Harrison both visibly and audibly, Lloyd would probably have a stroke if he played in today’s NFL.
Today Lloyd is a fourth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and teaches in a studio outside Georgia. Even though a horrific infection to his leg in ’97 threatened his life and ended his career somewhat early (and in Carolina), he speaks of his days in Pittsburgh with reverence and respect. As a fan, I will always look to him in the same way. He helped maintain and preserve the integrity and intensity of Pittsburgh linebackers in a particularly rough time for Steelers football.
I think there is no better way to conclude than with this quote:
“If I have to scream, if I have to bite, spit, get a 15-yard penalty, curse somebody out, even if I have to curse out one of my coaches and it means winning, then that’s the ultimate thing. If you don’t like it, the hell with you.”
-Greg Lloyd, 1991
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