Kevin Greene is a member of the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
Kevin Greene, all 245 Hall of Fame pounds of him, all passionate pop and vintage verve and 160 high-engine sacks, has never seen anyone like Margus Hunt. The wonder spews out of the phone Tuesday from Destin, Fla.
"I had a chance to lay my hands on him for three days. I've never seen anyone so big, so lean, so tall, so strong," Greene says. "If he does some of the things we talked about, I can promise you I feel confident he can make things very tough on offensive linemen."
Hunt, the Bengals' monstrous defensive end looking for a break-through year in his fourth NFL season, spent two sessions with Greene on his front lawn in Destin back in March. They moved inside to Greene's office, where they spent three film sessions detailing some of those sacks chalked up in the 15 seasons between the indomitable '85 Bears and the improbable '99 Rams.
"Passionate. Detailed," says Hunt, his first two takeaways from the appointment. "He helped me simplify things overall with my pass rush and the game itself."
It took Greene more than 10 years to finally hook up with a Bengals pass rusher. It's a natural since Greene played for head coach Marvin Lewis when Lewis was the linebackers coach in Pittsburgh in the early '90s. When the Bengals drafted Georgia defensive end David Pollack in the first round and switched him to SAM linebacker in 2005, Lewis signed up Greene to work training camp and help Pollack with the transition as well as the nuances of rushing an NFL passer.
But Greene never set eyes on Pollack because of a holdout that lasted longer than Greene's internship.
"So I hooked up with the guy that went to San Francisco," says Greene of right end Justin Smith. "He was a freaking beast. We were tied to the hip for three weeks."
After six internships in the league, Greene coached the 3-4 outside backers in Green Bay for five seasons before opting to spend more time with his family. He re-surfaced back in January when he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That will happen to you when only Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198) have more sacks in history.
Now he's going solo working with guys like Hunt with his 1.5 career sacks.
Simplify. That's what Hunt says he needed.
"I was making it too complicated for myself," Hunt says.
As Greene can do so well, he cut through all the clichés and bromides as if he were slicing past an anxious tackle's pass set.
"I tried to equate it to him," Greene says. "I told him I was 6-2, 245 pounds and I was able to get 160 sacks. You're 6-8, 300 pounds, and gifted. You ought to be destroying people.' So I taught him some tricks of the trade on how to get pressure on the quarterback. Stuff I can't tell you. Secrets."
But Greene can reveal the fundamentals he stressed to Hunt. He talks about picking up pre-snap tendencies, cataloguing plays by formation, finding that extra second with the brain.
"Little things," Greene says. "Foot work. Pad level. Strike point. Hand placement. If he's able to master those . . ."
These aren't exactly new concepts to Hunt, but they are in the life of this pass rusher. He's been playing the game only since 2009, when the SMU track program disbanded and he brought his teeming gifts to football. NFL success has been more elusive for the first athlete in the history of the World Junior Olympics to win gold in the discus and shot put.
Since the Bengals took him with their second pick in the second round of the 2013 draft as a project, injuries and veterans have eaten into his play time. He's barely played 400 snaps. For all those wondering where the Bengals' next pass rusher is since he didn't come in the draft, what about Hunt and right end Will Clarke, with barely 200 snaps since he was taken in the 2014 third round?
"We watched his rushes from back in the day and some of my rushes," Hunt says. "It's the same principles today. Watching him rush and going through what he talked about and then watching my rushes, it lined up exactly how he described it. I just wasn't able to capitalize on it.
"It was exactly like he said. How he set them up and how he did it. Watching my film, I was never able to (finish) that."
Greene thinks Hunt is in a good place to realize those rushes. There is Lewis and there is new defensive line coach Jacob Burney, the line coach when Greene finished his career in Carolina and "is a guy that I respect." And you can tell that Hunt listened when Greene talked about mindset.
"He really emphasized the physicalness of the game and setting dominance early," Hunt says. "Setting the physical tone early and just never letting up."
Greene is glad he hooked up with this Bengal draft pick a decade later.
"It's all up to Margus," says Greene after watching him tear up his front yard. "He's got all the gifts you really want for a pass rusher."