You’ve seen him in that ratty old t-shirt, at practice and on game days. You know the one, “I wasn’t hired for my disposition”. Pittsburgh knows a little something about linebackers. Arguably the best in the league have worn the black and gold, and Greg Lloyd is a part of that elite group. Love him for his hard hitting or hate him for his hard nosed attitude (or love him for that too), the man could play the game. So much to say about this guy, where to even begin….
You know in the movie Pulp Fiction when Samuel L Jackson describes his wallet… “it’s the one that says Bad Mother F@&*er”? Greg Lloyd is the only other guy on this planet worthy of that wallet. Words can’t do this guy justice. You can try– Unbridled intensity. Domination. Power and Plain ol’ Nasty, but Greg Lloyd needs to be appreciated in action.
Click here to watch and relive the man at work.
You’re welcome. Loved that part with The Chin coaching him up didn’t you?
Still other memorable hits missing from this montage; the blindsided blast on Favre, where he absolutely leveled the QB, knocking him out of the game; the ferocious hit on teh Giant’s Al Toon that drove him into next week and then tapped the turf counting him out; Charger wide out Tony Martin crossing the middle and Lloyd absolutely dislodging his head from his shoulders. All classic Lloyd. Commentators would notably wince when calling the replays on his hits. (Note that Lloyd was fined $12k for that Favre hit, the biggest fine at that time in the NFL)
In the 1995 season, Lloyd put up the best numbers of his career: 117 tackles, 10 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and 3 INTs.
That year Pittsburgh played Indianapolis for the AFC Championship at Three Rivers Stadium. If you don’t remember just how close it was, you can watch the ending HERE . Greg Lloyd played brilliantly in that game, but perhaps is more remembered for his live post game interview where he responded to reporter Jim Grey “Let’s see if we can bring this damn thing back here next year along with the f#$king Super Bowl”. Well said. Well said.
What wasn’t widely reported was the Greg’s demeanor after the comments. He sat down with an SI reporter and let down his guard a bit saying, “See, I didn’t even know I said anything, they had to tell me what I said.” Choose to believe him or not.
Greg Lloyd is a true study of dichotomy, as evidenced in the next day’s issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Two headlines featured the linebacker, one directly on top of the other. First the obvious coverage, LLOYD TURNS HEADS WITH XXX-RATED REMARK. Beneath that article is a much smaller one, headlined: MALL SET FOR BLITZ BY SUPER STEELER. Lloyd would be spending that night autographing team calendars to benefit a football camp for deaf children. The two stories both define the man and muddy the waters as to who Lloyd really is, and was, and the conflicting forces within. He gives of his time and money to a variety of charity organizations, yet in his first NFL game he was ejected for punching Denver Broncos backup quarterback Gary Kubiak.
He says the fans in Pittsburgh are always trying to look under the uniform, look for some crack in the armor, (like I am here…) “The thing about it is, Pittsburgh wants to know me and I never let them know me,” Lloyd says. “You can know all you want about number 95, but you don’t get to know Greg. That’s private.”
You might ask how a guy ends up this way. Maybe you have to go way back to the 60’s and a two year old Lloyd, who along with five of his eight siblings, was dropped at an aunt’s house by a mother who would not return. There were 10 kids in all sharing that aunt’s two-bedroom apartment. You can imagine there wasn’t much of anything to go around. Classmates were rough, as they always are, and Lloyd fought a lot with those who teased him. One “your mama” line was enough to start a scrum. Football was “a way to vent”, he says. On a first day of practice at age six, Lloyd was already knocking over his coaches. Literally. “I’ve had to overcome alot of bitterness” he says.
His career got off to a rocky start and almost didn’t happen. He was a steal as a 6th round pick out of Fort Valley State University. In the 1987 preseason, he blew out his right knee and missed his rookie year. In ’88 it was the left knee that cost him seven weeks of games. He was made a starter in ’89.
He played every down with fury and intensity, with passion and domination, yet without a working ACL in either knee. How he was able to explode on each play and end up in the backfield, causing more lost yards than anyone I can remember is a testament to his sheer force of will. He was like a firecracker with a short fuse. He was a monster at the outside linebacker position and really redefined the role to what it is today. He was voted to five Pro Bowls. He was one of only five linebackers voted to the Pittsburgh Steelers 75th Anniversary Team, putting him on the same list as guys we know from the dynasty days. Over his ten seasons he had over fifty sacks and eleven interceptions.
“When you play him, expect to get nailed,” said Jim Kelly, who had to leave the Bills’ playoff game in 1996 against the Steelers for a few minutes after Lloyd crunched him. “Once he gets free, it’s like he has radar or there’s a bull’s eye on your back.”
He brought the game and his teammates to a higher level of competitiveness. In 1993 we were playing the Browns and at halftime, losing. In the locker room, #95 gave a little pep talk. In true Greg Lloyd fashion there were chairs thrown, four letter words yelled and ultimately he told the offense that if they didn’t get it going he was going to play that side of the ball too. Steelers won that game.
Greg Lloyd never minced words. For a guy who wanted to let his play do the talking he always had alot to say.
“Namath can go to hell; he can kiss my a$$”
“I’m not out there to pussyfoot or be your friend. I have a lot of friends around the league. But I don’t know you when you’re on the field. I play the game.”
“If you want to be the best, don’t let there be any discrepancy about being the best. If we have to bite, we’ll bite. If we have to spit, we’ll spit. If we have to scratch, we’ll do that.”
In 1999 Greg Lloyd was cut from the Steelers. Shortly following, in an interview with the PG he said, “There are no hard feelings. I understand they had to do what they thought they had to do.” But don’t think he’s exactly happy about how things ended for him in Pittsburgh. I’m not sure it was ever clear if his release was about taking a pay cut or related to his chronic injuries, but the truth was, Lloyd was no longer a Steeler. He played one year with the Carolina Panthers and that would be all. Lloyd traces the beginning of the end to a staph infection he got from an injection into a sore ankle in ‘97. Lloyd said details about his battle against the bacterial infection were not always conveyed accurately, although he noted, “You’re talking to a guy who almost died.”
Today Lloyd, who earned a fourth-degree black belt in tae kwon do, teaches in a studio outside of Georgia. After all these years and the tumultuous ending with the Steelers, he still has a warm spot in his heart for President Dan Rooney. “Mr. Rooney is probably the classiest guy I’ve ever met.” Rooney shared the sentiment saying of Lloyd “He was one of the Best, not just one of the Steeler’s best, but one of the best in the League. Greg could play in any era…. He’s just a football player.”
Greg Lloyd has had his share of negative personal press, I’m not getting into that. He was, without doubt, the fiercest man I saw play for Pittsburgh, feel free to debate that below. His size, his skills and a dash of crazy? If I’m a quarterback in the 1990s, I’m doing what the sign says “Avoid Lloyd”.
“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.”
And that Steeler fans, was the world according to Greg Lloyd.