University Of North Texas
1968 Mean Green Joe Greene
As a senior in ’68, and a full blown All American, super strong specimen at 6’4” and 274 pounds, Joe Greene dominated not only the Missouri Valley Conference, but the nation as its premiere defensive lineman. When the term “Mean Green” was uttered, it was taken for granted that it referred not only to the green and white clad football team of North Texas State University, but to the presence that was manning the defensive tackle position. The robust offense again did its job well, with quarterback Steve Ramsey the fifth best passing QB in the nation with 2206 yards through the air and a number six national ranking for the offensive squad. He utilized Head Coach Rod Rust’s diversified passing offense to get the ball to receivers Ronnie Shanklin who spent five years with the Steelers and another with the Chicago Bears, Barry Moore, and Bob Helterbran. Glen Holloway led the offensive line in providing the protection for Ramsey and then took his skills to the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns in a five year professional career.
However, it was Greene and the defense that solidified the 8-2 record and he could look back on his College Football Hall Of Fame career with the knowledge that he had put North Texas State on the map with a 23 – 5 – 1 record during his three year stay in Denton, while leading a defense that allowed opponents less than two yards per carry during his three year tenure. With Greene in tandem with All Missouri Valley Conference linebacker James Ivy, it made sense for the other MVC teams to pass rather than run. The Mean Green secondary was not a particularly “easy nut to crack” either with Mike Shook and Charles Beatty seeking out interceptions and vulnerable receivers but with Greene leading the charge, the front line was at times, impenetrable. Not yet filled out to the terrorizing 6’5”, 255 pound pass rushing monster he would later be as a two time Pro Bowl defensive end with the Forty Niners, Oakland Raiders, and USFL Oakland Invaders, Cedrick Hardman was the surprise story and one of the most talented member of the defense. Beginning his North Texas State career as a defensive back, he grew to linebacker size and moved to the defensive line, very much as a pass rushing specialist with great speed and daring. Only starting three games in ’68 as a junior, Hardman worked his way into “all time” status at North Texas State as a senior. Though the statistics were not officially kept, Mean Green followers credited him with over thirty five sacks in his senior season of 1969.
For Greene’s 1968 senior season, the Mean Green flaunted as much green as possible, switching to a Kelly green shell with the same interlocking NT decal on each side, now in contrasting white, with a white one-inch center stripe and white block player identification numerals on the rear of the shell. With the hallowed Northwestern sleeve stripes as the jersey trim, this proved to be an extremely popular look among fans. When the name Mean Joe Greene comes up in conversation, one may think “Steelers! Joe Greene became the Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft selection, one that proved to be the building block for their incredible success that produced four Super Bowl wins in the 1970’s. Greene was the National Football League’s Rookie Of The Year and followed this honor with winning the Defensive Player Of The Year twice and becoming a First Team All NFL selection five times, leading to his entry into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. After a post-playing career that saw him do it all, Joe Greene imparted his knowledge as an NFL assistant coach and advisor for almost two decades. Greene’s professional career was so remarkable, that many don’t recognize that he was an unforgettable force in college football, so much so that he is credited with changing the name by which the athletic teams were known, perhaps a first in the game!