On April 11th at age 85, Forrest Gregg passed away. Gregg was from a small town called Birthright, Texas. And then he moved to a tiny bit bigger place where they had enough kids to field a football team called Sulphur Springs. He was from a big poor farm family and his father needed him and the other kids in the family to help. Sometimes the father sent his kids over to another farmer to pick cotton to help make ends meet. The Greggs worked to survive and you got a sense that was not that unusual for folks from that part of Texas. Gregg talked about bailing hay as a young man and the fact that is paid $4 a day versus the $3 a day for cotton.
Forrest Gregg was a good athlete and he liked to play basketball and football in high school. Still his father took a little convincing that sports would somehow help the family out. Along the way, Gregg got some help and encouragement from coaches and other folks. He remembered those people throughout his life. Gregg attended SMU and he remembered his time there fondly. After SMU, Gregg would play for 15 years in the NFL and then go on to coach in college, the NFL and the CFL. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Gregg could have been described as one of the best ever to play his position in the history of the game.
Gregg was drafted by the Packers in 1956. At about 6-foot as a junior in high school, he had filled out to 6-foot-4 and 249 pounds. Gregg was not familiar with the Packers. According to his autobiography, Winning in the Trenches (with Andrew O’Toole), he was not sure what state Green Bay was in. He played in Green Bay in 1956 for Coach Lisle Blackbourn. Then was drafted into the Army. He was back in Green Bay in 1958 playing for new coach, Ray Scooter McLean. In 1959 the whole Packer world changed with the hiring of Vince Lombardi.
Gregg would play offensive tackle although he was a little undersized for the position. He would also fill-in at guard when others were injured. Gregg’s personal career would be described with the Iron Man tag–he played without serious injury. Lombardi was one coach who could appreciate the importance of the offensive line. He himself was one of the “Seven Blocks of Granite” at Fordham. Lombardi was big on the fundamentals and Gregg would certainly help the Packers play fundamental football. Greg would play for all of Lombardi’s 1959-1967 seasons for the Packers. He would win 5 NFL Championships. Gregg would play at Green Bay until 197o and then finish out his career with the Dallas Cowboys in their 1971 Super Bowl year. Lombardi would call Gregg the finest player he had coached.
Gregg would coach for the Browns, the Bengals, and the Packers in the NFL. He also coached for the Toronto Argonauts and the Shreveport Pirates in the Canadian Football League. When his alma mater SMU Aggies received the “death penalty” for various infractions Gregg came back to help revive the program.
Gregg’s 1981 Bengal team lost a Super Bowl game to the San Francisco 49ers of Bill Walsh and Joe Montana.
Being a member of the Packers during the Lombardi years has meant Hall of Fame Status for several players. Certainly Gregg was deserving. Gregg not only played well for a number of years, he played well against several of the best defensive lineman.