The great Forrest Gregg was laid to rest this week after his passing last Friday. The greatest player Vince Lombardi ever coached and a legend of the game called home. Gregg played 15 seasons in the NFL, all but one for Lombardi’s Packers. At one point Gregg played in 188 consecutive games in the trenches. The NFL named Gregg to the All-Pro team seven times and the Pro-Bowl nine times. The Hall of Fame came calling in 1977, his first year of eligibility.
Not bad for a kid from Sulphur Springs who played his senior year as a 195 lineman. Gregg was also a decent basketball player during his prep career. After graduation, he headed for the Hilltop to play for SMU.
If you're into the uncontrollable elements in the alchemy that separates legends from mere mortals you'll love this - Gregg's SMU career almost didn't happen. The Ponies weren't sold on Gregg coming out of Sulphur Springs. Instead, they had their sights set on another lineman, leaving Gregg without a scholarship. It wasn't until the Mustangs’ primary target bolted for Oklahoma that SMU offered a scholarship to the man who would go on to make the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team and whom the Sporting News ranked as the 28th greatest NFL player of all time. Oklahoma’s late addition allowed Gregg a scholarship to play for Coach Woody Woodward’s SMU program. The rest was history.
Gregg saw extensive action in the trenches as a sophomore in 1953. During the offseason, he competed in the throwing events for the Mustang track team.
In 1954, Gregg’s junior season, he started to come into his own on both sides of the football. He made All-SWC for his efforts on the offensive side. The Mustangs were the only game in town with 50,000 plus regularly cramming into the Cotton Bowl on a Saturday afternoon. Powerhouse Notre Dame named Gregg to their All-Opponent team in 1954, and by 1955, Gregg’s teammates saw fit to elect him captain.
The 216-pound tackle opened holes for Don McIlhenny. McIlhenny went onto become a third-round pick in the 1956 draft, more importantly for SMU fans, his kid Lance was the trigger man for the vaunted Pony Express SMU teams of the 1980s. As for the 1955 Mustangs, they opened the season ranked 16th in the country, but a series of top ten losses doomed the Ponies to a 4-6 finish. Gregg ended the ‘55 season on the All-SWC roster once again and an Honorable Mention All-American.
The Packers selected Gregg in the second round of the 1956 draft. The rest, as they say, is history. After his playing career, Gregg went into coaching. He led the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance in 1981. In 1988 he voluntarily left his job as head coach of the Packers to take a pay cut and coach his alma mater on their return from the Death Penalty. After two seasons in charge, Gregg moved into the big chair, serving as SMU’s AD until 1994.
Greg retired to Colorado Springs in the mid-2000s. He died on April 12, 2019, at the age of 85 due to complications from Parkinson's disease.
God speed Forrest Gregg. They don’t make’em like that anymore.