By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's off-season workouts started at 5:30 a.m. in January of 1983.
Coach Pat Dye wandered from drill to drill wanting to see "who would compete and who wouldn't."
He couldn't help but notice a 6-2, 220-pound newcomer named Kevin Greene.
"He'd catch your eye the way he looked," Dye said. "Then I watched him working. And he was faster, and quicker, and whipped everybody on our football team in any drill he got into.
"I turned around and asked one of the coaches or a manager, `Who in the world is that? They said, `That's Kevin Greene.' I said, `Where has he been?' They said, `He's a walk-on.'
Unbeknownst to Coach Dye, Greene had walked on before, three years earlier, in Doug Barfield's final season.
Greene spent the summer of 1980 at Fort McClellan's Military Police School. By the time he arrived on the Plains, he'd missed all of the preseason camp and the season was already under way.
After one week of watching practice from the sideline, Greene walked off and spent the next three seasons lifting weights and playing intramurals for Auburn's ROTC team.
In the winter of '83, he gave it another shot.
"From that moment on, he had an unbelievable work ethic," Dye said. "Didn't make any difference whether he was running sprints, or any competitive drill that we ran, it was important to him that he win. And he displayed that on the field."
Greene played special teams on Auburn's 1983 SEC Championship team. As a fifth-year senior in '84, he led the SEC in sacks with 11.
"Nobody in the country played the game with more rage, effort," Dye said "I don't know that I've ever coached anybody who had more desire to be good than Kevin."
Drafted in the fifth round in '85 by the Los Angeles Rams, Greene played 15 seasons in the NFL. His 160 sacks are the most by a linebacker in league history, and third overall behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White.
"And he was a student of the game," said Dye, who recently asked Greene what set him apart from other skilled players. The answer? "He studied film relentlessly. Knew where the ball was going before they snapped it 8 out of 10 times, which gives you a tremendous advantage. He studied the offensive tackles, knew their weaknesses, and had three moves he could use against each one.
"When you get those tackles in a guessing game, you've got it made," Dye said.
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At recent his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech, Greene said it was a blessing playing for Coach Dye.
"His speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame was typical Kevin Greene, with passion, emotion. And free-spirited," Dye said. "It showed how much he loved his family, and he much they meant to him. How much he loved his teammates, and Auburn, and the people who helped him get to where he is today."
In 12 seasons at Auburn, Dye coached a lot of legendary players. Only one is enshrined in Canton.
"He was kind of a freak of nature, with his strength. Size-wise, he wasn't that heavy, at 235. And height-wise, 6-1, or 6-2," Dye said. "But his strength, he was by far the strongest football player we had on the team. And maybe the strongest player that we ever had on the team that I coached here.
"He was an intense football player. Great practice player. Come to work every day with the same mindset. You didn't have to crank him up to get him started. He came out there ready to practice and ready to work, and set an example for everybody on the team.
"Good husband, good father, good son, good teammate, and a great player."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer