Many years before he anchored Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense and won four Super Bowls, Joe Greene was just a big, timid kid from Temple, Texas struggling to find his confidence as a teenager being raised by a single mother. In his eye-opening autobiography, Built By Football, Greene takes readers on an unprecedented tour of his life, exploring the people who influenced him and the events that shaped him: from humiliating high school embarrassments to the grit and guts that led him to the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Desire, hustle and fight.
I had several coaches in high school but Coach Lester Moore stands out as the one who had the most influence on me. His number one goal was to put the fight in you and to teach you to outhustle the other guy. One of his gifts was that he motivated you in a way that made you want to succeed for him. He was constantly throwing fuel on your fire.
He had a few sayings that he repeated over and over again and one of them I can still hear him saying to this day. It's a pretty common phrase in football and life that I've heard many times since, but I heard it first from him over 50 years ago, so it sticks in my head as coming from him. The saying is, "It ain't the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog."
He used to say that to us every single day and it worked because we needed the motivation, especially in summer practices. I say this because while we all loved football, our facilities certainly weren't anything to brag about. We could have used some major upgrades.
For one, our field was nice and grassy for about three days and then it was nothing but dirt for the rest of the season. Our locker rooms were tight and musty. None of our pads or helmets were new. Our shoes might have been new for some guys, but pretty soon they were worn out or soaked through with dirt and mud and it was very common for us to have blisters from practicing twice a day in that hundred-degree heat in late August and early September.
Believe me, there were plenty of days that you wanted to quit, but you wouldn't.
Then we had all these other restrictions to teach us discipline and focus. The two big ones were no cigarettes and no beer. The other one was that you couldn't be seen with a girl the day before a game or on game day. The idea was that the game was too important to lose focus or get in trouble.
Of course, there was also a pretty rough punishment to go along with enforcing those rules. If somebody saw you drinking a beer or taking a pull on a cigarette or with your girlfriend the morning of a game, you had to roll.
Man, I still wince thinking about it.
Rolling is when you start on the goal line, lying prone on the ground, with your hands behind your head. Then you roll over and over again as fast as you can until the coach says to stop.
We'd need a spotter so that you didn't roll in a circle. By the time coach would tell you to stop, maybe 50 or 100 yards later, there was a 90% chance that you'd throw up when you stood up.
That was our punishment and it was too harsh for me, so I didn't mess around with those rules.
-- Excerpted by permission from Mean Joe Greene: Built by Football by Joe Greene with Jon Finkel. Copyright (c) 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase through Amazon. Follow Jon Finkel on Twitter @Jon_Finkel.