Vince Lombardi called him the greatest player he ever coached.
Forrest Gregg, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle and former Packers head coach, has died at the age of 85, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He battled Parkinson’s Disease for the latter years of his life.
Hall of Famer and @packers legend Forrest Gregg passed away today at the age of 85.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) April 12, 2019
Gregg, who usually played right tackle for most of his tenure with the Lombardi-era Packers, played multiple positions to fill in for injured teammates. He earned first-team All-Pro seven times, six at tackle and once at guard.
His playing tenure lasted in Green Bay in 1956 and from 1958-70, before one season with the Dallas Cowboys. In that time, he also earned nine Pro Bowl selections.
He became an NFL head coach for 11 years, including four with the Green Bay Packers. He went 25-37-1 from 1984-87. He also coached the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI.
“I lost my sweetheart this morning,” she Barbara Gregg, who shared 59 years of matrimony with Forrest. “It’s awful. He died in my arms.”
She said that in the last two weeks her husband received a constant flow of calls from former teammates and players telling him he’d made such a big difference in their lives.
“I’m overwhelmed at the amount of people that loved Forrest, of the number of players that said he made men out of them,” she said. “Forrest loved people. He loved everybody. He loved his children. He loved me. And it just broke my heart. My heart is broken.”
She said the funeral will be sometime next week in Colorado Springs and open to the public.
Gregg, who earned the nickname “Iron Man” for playing in a then-record 188 consecutive games during his career, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in October 2011. He quickly embarked on a campaign to raise public awareness about the incurable disease, urging others to seek treatment early enough to delay the degenerative effects on both the mind and body.
His family and his neurologist said the disease may have been related to numerous concussions he suffered during his playing career in the 1950s at SMU, and from 1956-71 with the Packers and Dallas Cowboys.
Gregg never blamed football for his health ailments, however. He refused to join concussion lawsuits against the NFL and said he still would have chosen to play the sport if he’d known there would be a hefty price to pay later in life.
In an interview with The Associated Press in 2013, Gregg said he didn’t begrudge those who sued the league, but he had his pensions from his playing and coaching days, and “I don’t need anything from anybody but what I earned.”
Watch a tribute below from adversary and fellow Hall of Famer Deacon Jones.
“He was the best drive blocker I’ve ever seen.” –Deacon Jones
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) April 12, 2019