John Greene (American football)

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John Greene
John Greene 1944.jpg
John Greene from the 1944 Michiganensian (cropped from wrestling team portrait)
Date of birth (1920-04-21)April 21, 1920
Place of birth Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Date of death November 4, 2010(2010-11-04) (aged 90)
Place of death Franklin, Michigan
Career information
Position(s) Quarterback, tackle, end
College Michigan
NFL Draft 1944 / Round: 5 / Pick: 35
Career history
As player
1944–1950 Detroit Lions
Career stats

John Joseph "Johnny" Greene (April 21, 1920 – November 4, 2010) was an American collegiate wrestler and football player.

Greene competed in wrestling and football at the University of Michigan from 1940 to 1944. He was captain of the Michigan wrestling team in 1944 and was also selected to play in the 11th annual Chicago College All-Star Game that same year. He was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1989.

Greene was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 1944 NFL Draft and played seven seasons for the Lions from 1944 to 1950. After moving to the end position in 1945, Greene became a star, ranking among the National Football League (NFL) leaders in receptions and/or receiving yards each year from 1945 to 1949. He had an 88-yard touchdown reception that was the longest pass play in the NFL during the 1946 season and the longest in Detroit Lions history up to that time. When he retired, he was the Lions' all-time leading receiver with 2,965 receiving yards, 26 touchdown catches and 173 receptions. He also served as an assistant coach for the Lions during the 1951 season.

Early years[edit]

Greene was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1920. He attended high school at The Kiski School in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania.[1]

University of Michigan[edit]

Greene enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1940. While he was a student at Michigan, Greene was a member of the Michigan Wolverines wrestling team coached by Cliff Keen. In 1943, he lost 15 pounds to qualify for the 175-pound weight class. He finished the 1943 season in third place in the Big Ten Conference.[2] In 1944, he was the team captain,[3] compiled a 16-7 record, and was the Big Ten Conference runner up.[4]

Green also played for the Michigan Wolverines football team under head coach Fritz Crisler. In 1940, he played for Michigan's all-freshman team.[5] As a sophomore, he was a 6-foot, 0 inch, 191-pound backup at the quarterback position for the 1941 Michigan Wolverines football team.[6]

Greene remained at Michigan during the World War II years, having been classified 4-F due to a perforated or punctured eardrum.[7][8] During Greene's junior year, George Ceithaml started all 10 games at quarterback for the 1942 Michigan football team,[9] and Greene became a backup at the tackle position.[10] As a senior, Greene remained a backup at the tackle position, but he was awarded a varsity letter for his contributions to the 1943 Michigan Wolverines football team.[11]

Despite the fact that he was not a starter at Michigan, Greene was invited in the summer of 1944 to participate on the 11th annual Chicago College All-Star Game, an annual game matching a collegiate all-star team against the prior season's NFL championship team.[7]

Detroit Lions[edit]

Greene was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the fifth round (35th overall pick) of the 1944 NFL Draft. As a rookie in 1944, Greene appeared in nine games, five of them as a starter.[12] He was used principally as a blocking back.[8]

1945 season[edit]

For the 1945 season, the Lions' head coach Gus Dorais moved Greene to the end position after being impressed with his speed.[13] Greene started all 10 games for the Lions at the end position in 1945. He led the 1945 Lions in receiving with 26 receptions for 550 yards (21.2 yards per catch) and five receiving touchdowns. He also ranked fifth among all NFL players in receptions, receiving yards, and yards per catch during the 1945 season.[12]

1946 season[edit]

Greene's production fell off during the 1946 season, as he appeared in all ten games, but only started two games. The highlight of Greene's 1946 season came in a 17-7 victory (the Lions only victory in 1946) over the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 10, 1946. In that game, Greene caught a pass from Dave Ryan at midfield and ran the remaining 50 yards for a touchdown. The play, good for an 88-yard gain, was the longest pass play in the NFL during the 1946 season and the longest in Detroit Lions history up to that time.[12][14][15] Even with the reduced playing time, Greene's 22 receptions in 1946 ranked eighth in the NFL.[12]

1947 season[edit]

During the 1947 season, Greene was the Lions' leading receiver for the third straight year. He appeared in 12 games (six as a starter) and caught 38 passes for 621 yards (16.3 yards per catch). He ranked sixth in the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards.[12] Greene's longest reception of the 1947 season was a 47-yard gain on a pass from Roy Zimmerman in a 35-7 victory over the New York Giants.[16] Greene acquired the nickname "the Cinderella Kid" while playing for the Lions, a reference to "his rise to stardom after comparative obscurity while a lineman in college and early in his Lions' career."[13]

1948 season[edit]

In 1948, Greene led the Lions in receiving yards for the fourth consecutive season. He appeared in 12 games (five as a starter) and caught 25 passes for 595 yards and five touchdowns. His average of 23.8 yards per reception was the best in the NFL.[12]

The 1948 Detroit Lions season was notable for the racial integration of the team. African-American halfback Mel Groomes joined the Lions in 1948, as did African-American end Bob Mann. Mann and Greene, both University of Michigan alumni, led the Lions' receiving corps. Mann caught 33 passes for 560 yards in 1948, only 35 yards behind Greene. Wallace Triplett, an African-American player who joined the Lions in 1949, praised Greene for his leadership in welcoming the African-American players. Triplett recalled: "I want to say 'thank you' to John because what we have now in the NFL would not have been possible had it not been for him and others like Bill Dudley. John was a star and a captain for the Lions. So, when he and Bill came over to me in the locker room, shook my hand and welcomed me to the Lions, it made a huge impact in my acceptance on the team and in the League. I will always appreciate what John and Bill did for me."[13]

1949 season[edit]

For the 1949 season, Greene was selected as a co-captain of the Lions along with Russ Thomas.[17] Greeene appeared in all 12 games for the 1949 Lions, 11 of them as a starter. He had career highs in receptions (44) and receiving touchdowns (7), and ranked seventh and fifth among all NFL players in those two categories.[12]

1950 season[edit]

The 1950 season was Greene's last in the NFL. The season began on a high note for Greene as he caught a pass from Bobby Layne for a 78-yard gain in a pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.[18] Greene appeared in all 12 games for the 1950 Lions, but he was not a starter. He caught 22 passes for 368 yards.[12] Cloyce Box and Doak Walker led the 1950 Lions in receiving, as Bobby Layne began his tenure as the team's quarterback.[19]

Career statistics[edit]

Greene played seven seasons in the National Football League, all for the Lions.[12] When he retired after the 1950 season, he was the Lions' all-time leading receiver with 2,965 receiving yards, 26 touchdown catches and 173 receptions.[12][13]

Greene remained with the Lions in 1951 as an assistant coach.[20] After several consecutive years finishing near the bottom of their division, the 1951 Lions compiled a 7-4-1 record and finished in second place in the NFL National Division.[21]

Later years[edit]

Greene lived in Franklin, Michigan, in his later years. He was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor as a wrestler in 1989.[3] In November 2010, he died at his home in Franklin at age 90. He was survived by his wife Alice. [13][22] He was also survived by his sister Margaret E. Greene McArdle.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "John Greene". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Kopel and Johnson Crowned Champion as Wrestlers Take Second Place in Big Ten". The Michigan Alumnus. March 20, 1943. p. 294. 
  3. ^ a b "Michigan Wrestling History & Record Book" (PDF). University of Michigan. 
  4. ^ "30th Big 10 Tournament (1944) At Northwestern" (PDF). Wrestlingstates.com. Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  5. ^ "1940 Michigan Football Roster". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  6. ^ "1941 Michigan Football Roster". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Greene, Tackle at Michigan, Is New All-Star". Chicago Daily Tribune. July 31, 1944. p. 15. 
  8. ^ a b "Without A Sinkwich, Detroit Lions Open Against Chicago On Sunday". The Windsor Star. September 22, 1945. 
  9. ^ "1942 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. 
  10. ^ "1942 Michigan Football Roster". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  11. ^ "1943 Michigan Football Roster". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. Retrieved August 20, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "John Greene". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "Former Lions' Star in the 1940s John Greene Dies at 90". Detroit Lions. November 5, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Bowl Consent for Army Eleven Gives Zest To Drills For Penn". The Owosso Argus-Press. November 14, 1946. 
  15. ^ "Lions Beat Steelers on Passes". Meriden Record. November 11, 1946. 
  16. ^ "Lions Turn Back New York By 35-7: Giants Suffer Fifth Defeat in Row Before 28,812 Briggs Stadium Fans". The New York Times. November 3, 1947. 
  17. ^ "Steelers Take On Lions Tonight At Forbes Field". The Pittsburgh Press. October 8, 1949. 
  18. ^ "Pittsburgh Upsets Lions in Pro Loop". The Sunday Star. August 20, 1950. 
  19. ^ "1950 Detroit Lions Season". pro-football-reference.com. 
  20. ^ "Former Bach Aide Hired By Lions". The Pittsburgh Press. February 13, 1952. 
  21. ^ "1951 Detroit Lions Season". pro-football-reference.com. 
  22. ^ "Former Lions receiver Greene dies at age 90". Newsday. November 5, 2010.