Friday, August 3, 2012

Counting down the top Pitt football players of the last 40 years- No.2 Hugh Green

I will be counting down my own list of the top 50 Pitt football players since 1972.  I have spent time doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of people when formulating this list, but ultimately it is MY opinion.  The great thing about lists like this is that people will disagree, and feel free to, but just remember that there is no right answer so there's no need to go crazy if you do disagree.  I will post this same intro with all 50 bios because I know the one time I don't, people will complain about not knowing what criteria I used.  I will add at least one a day, maybe two.  

My criteria for selecting the order is as follows:

1.  Productivity.
2.  Talent.
3.  Place in program history.
4.  Only the player's careers while at Pitt are considered, not their NFL careers. 
5.  No current players.

2.  Hugh Green (1977-80)-  You would think the No.1 choice would be easy but a serious case could be made for #99.  Arguably the best defensive player in college football history, Green was also a four-time All-American and three-time First Team All-American.

How Green came to Pitt is part of Panther legend.  While the Pitt staff was in Natchez, MS looking at star running back prospect Rooster Jones, they noticed Green, whose only offer at the time was from Mississippi State.  Green eventually chose Pitt because he said he wanted to be on television.  The rest is history.

Green didn't start from the very first snap of his freshman season, but he did play on the second snap.  After that he never sat again.  As a freshman, he ended up with 92 tackles, 12 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 4 passes defensed, 2 blocked kicks, and an interception.  It was enough to be named second team All-American.

As a soph he was even better with 109 tackles, 13 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 6 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions.  He ended the season being named a consensus first team All-American.

As a junior, the greatness continued with 135 tackles, 11 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 5 passes defensed, and another interception.  This time he was named a unanimous first team All-American. He was also a finalist for the Lombardi Award but was beat out by USC offensive tackle Brad Budde.

As a senior, he somehow managed to be even better with 123 tackles, 17 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 7 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, and 6 passes defensed.  Once again he was named a unanimous first team All-American

Green's career totals included 460 tackles, 52 tackles for loss (in college football this does not include sacks), 53 sacks, 24 forced fumbles, 13 recovered fumbles, 22 passed defensed, and 76 hurries.  To put those numbers in perspective, Green's average year at Pitt was 115 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 3 recovered fumbles, 5 passes defensed, and 19 hurries.  That is a dream season for most All-Americans, let alone a four year average.  If that wasn't enough, he even had four interceptions and two blocked kicks in his career.  And this is while he was double and triple teamed throughout his entire career.

Despite those incredible numbers, Green still did not win the Heisman, finishing second to South Carolina's George Rogers.  It was the highest finish for a defensive only player in Heisman history (Michigan's Charles Woodson partially won because of his return skills).

While Green was robbed of the Heisman, he did win the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Lombardi Award, the Sporting News Player of the Year, and the UPI Player of the Year.

He was named the 5th best college football player ever by College Football News and the 14th best by ESPN.  In 1996 he was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame.

On the field, Green was fast, explosive, and mean. In fact, he once said, "I do find that something like a forearm up alongside the head does seem to settle most folks down." Syracuse head coach Frank Maloney marveling at Green's talent at the time said, "He just shouldn't be playing college football".  Pitt's defensive end coach, Ray Zingler, may have put it best when he said, "He does two things.  First he'll rip your head off, then he'll cut your heart out."

Green was drafted with the 7th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played 11 seasons in the league, splitting time between Tampa Bay and Miami.  Injuries prevented him from having a great NFL career, but he did make the All-Pro team twice.  


  1. A great example of why a kid's offer sheet may not be indicative of whatever he is able to accomplish in his college career.

    And BTW...loved the quote from Green.

  2. An unbelievable talent....
    quick, fast and strong!!!

    When he made a tackle...
    the announcer would say...
    "Tackle made by... (pause)"
    the crowd would respond...

    "HUGH..... GREEN"

    1. All-time great, but did he run track in high school?

    2. He was a DE... don't expect them to run track back in the day... the skill players ran track.
      Speed of the game today is much faster than 30 years ago...

  3. My first football jersey! Still the best football player I have ever seen, if he had the surgery we have now he would have been the most fearsome DE in pro football

  4. Perhaps the best illustration of Green's athleticism was one play in which Green rushes the punter, leaps over a blocker while engaged, blocks punt and sacks punter all at once...details are a hazy but there is footage of this play out there somewhere.

    Green was also on one of the best SI covers ever which simply labeled him "The Baddest Cat in the Game" alongside a black panther

    1. If I recall the same play, Hugh had a scissors lock around the blocker's neck. A business friend played against him while at WVU. He and another player were assigned to block Green on punts. The double team did not work. His frustrated coaches kept trying different schemes. Finally, one of the coaches screams, "can't you just block the F-ing guy?" Hard to argue that Dorsett does not deserve #1 given what he meant to Pitt's program, but play for play, for four years, no player was ever as great or exciting to watch as #99

    2. Yep that is the play Sal.

      Here is a link to the SI cover I mentioned. You can click on view articles and read the cover piece on Hugh.

  5. I loved Hugh Green as a player and I feel he should have the Heisman Trophy. My best recolection of him is how dominant he was against Notre Dame as a freshman. He was truely a remarkable player. I would have as my Pitt top 4, Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Hugh Green, and and Larry Fitzgarald in that order.

  6. Hard to believe they only won one national championship during that era from 76 - 82 or so. How many college and pro Hall of Famers on those teams?

  7. I personally think he was the Baddest Panther of all time. Numero Uno in my book.
    Thanx for the stats and the entire article, brings back some great memories of Pitt football at it's best.

  8. Hugh Green was the leader of the great defenses, designed by Jackie Sherrill and Jimmy Johnson, that made Pitt almost unbeatable.

  9. I'm still fuming that Rogers won the Heisman over Green, but they weren't about to give a Pitt guy the honor of being the first defensive player to win that had to go to a Michigan guy instead.

    The Heisman is a joke still though...everyone knows it goes to the best back in college 99% of the time.

  10. Chris.....

    This was excellent review and summary of Pitt greats. Nice work.

  11. A couple things...

    first... Joe D...

    Yes... that PA Announcer back then was awesome... although I remember it a tad different... I remember it that the announcer would say...

    "Tackle made by # 99"... then he'd pause for the crowd to yell out "HUGH" really loud and then the announcer would finish ..... "GREEN"

    That Announcer really helped keep the crowd in the game with his playful way of calling out each of the defensive player's names when they'd make a tackle (loved how he called out Rickey Jackson and Jerry Boyarsky as if they were the next contestants on the Price is Right). Those days on the cold metal bleachers at Pitt Stadium were some of my favorite sports memories of all time.

    3 things I know for sure:

    1. Hugh Green was the Baddest of the Bad... ain't never gonna be anyone better.

    2. Pitt football would be 10 times cooler if they had an announcer like that guy now who understands the importance of getting the crowd more into the game instead of all the distractions being introducing more recently (like having cheerleaders shooting branded tee-shirts (unrelated to Pitt) into the crowd or singing Sweet Caroline-which has nothing to do with being a Panther and does nothing to help the team become get more pumped up on the field.

    3. Chris did a really nice job with this list. I too have trouble making Tony D the easy choice for # 1 over Hugh- but there is no doubt those are the top 2.