Jets' Gavin Greene keeping late father Kevin Greene with him -

Jets’ Gavin Greene keeping late father Kevin Greene with him

It was the dream he shared with his late Hall of Fame father, the dream Gavin Greene chases now on a tryout with the New York Jets, Kevin Greene living so large in his heart and in his mind that he will not feel alone.

Gang Greene together.

Gavin Greene stood Saturday in the press room in the facility where his father once was an assistant coach and smiled like it was Christmas morning when someone asked what he thought his dad might be thinking:

“He’s probably gonna give me a bear hug and give me a headbutt, you know?

“I’m sure my dad’s smiling down from heaven right now, just so happy that despite his passing and all the adversity I’ve been through with that, that I have overcame it and I’m here now. I think he’s overjoyed.”

Gavin, a water boy when his father was Packers outside linebackers coach (2009-14), was in seventh grade when he informed his parents that he wanted to play football.

“The reason he’s not Kevin Jr. is because Kevin never wanted Gavin to have to live under that pressure, to do what dad did, to be like dad,” Gavin’s mother, Tara, told The Post.

Jets’ Gavin Greene, right, runs a drill with Hamilcar Rashed during the Jets rookie minicamp in Florham Park, New Jersey on May 7, 2022.
Jets’ Gavin Greene, right, runs a drill with Hamilcar Rashed.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Kevin nevertheless felt compelled to quit as Packers assistant coach.

“One night he went into my son’s room and Gavin said to Kevin, ‘Dad, tomorrow, when you have free time, can you teach me what you taught Clay Matthews today at work?’ ” Tara recalled. “That was all Kevin needed. He knew that very day that he would no longer be coaching for the Green Bay Packers, that he needed to give his passion for football to his son, who wanted it.”

The family moved back to Destin, Fla., and Kevin got to help coach Gavin during his senior year at Niceville High School. “He never stopped until the day he died,” Tara said.

“As a matter of fact, the day he died he was actually coaching my son.”

Gavin, a 6-foot, 250-pound defensive end/outside linebacker, started at Southern Mississippi before moving to Mississippi College.

Kevin Greene, left, and his son Gavin Greene after a Mississippi College football game in 2019.
Kevin Greene, left, and his son Gavin Greene after a Mississippi College football game in 2019.
Gabrielle Greene

But then came the tragic day of Dec. 21, 2020, when Kevin Greene succumbed to a heart attack. He was 58.

“Life-shattering apocalyptic,” Tara said. “He felt responsible, to a degree, because dad was working with him. Dad was doing this to make him better.”

The day had started with an intensive high-cardio Stairmaster/treadmill gym workout on the property after which Kevin didn’t feel well. But he recovered quickly enough to continue with Gavin on the NFL-quality partial field Kevin had installed in the front yard. Tara returned home with daughter Gabrielle from the grocery store.

Kevin and Gavin Greene in Kevin's Panthers jersey in 2009.
Kevin Greene dedicated his time to his son Gavin Greene’s football aspirations.

Her voice chokes with emotion as she says: “Then I discover him in our bathroom.” CPR attempts failed. “Then the day just falls apart,” Tara said, “and our lives fell apart.”

They all turned to prayer.

“[Gavin] was heartbroken,” Tara said. “He was frustrated. We have a strong faith. God’s OK that we had questions. We didn’t understand. Gavin was like, ‘How do I do this without my dad? How do I do this without my best friend?’ ’’

Marvin Lewis, Kevin’s linebacker coach with the Steelers, offered guidance and support. Former Ravens and Chargers linebacker Jarrett Johnson helped train Gavin.

Gavin got up because his father always taught him to get up.

“Me and my dad, even though his time on this planet was cut short,” Gavin said, “we lived a thousand lifetimes together. My dad’s my biggest hero, and will stay as my biggest hero to this day.”

Before he was a WCW star, before he was Jets outside linebackers coach (2017-18), before his HOF enshrinement in 2016, before he was the popular blond-haired predator with the Steelers, Kevin was a Ram when he opened a Gold’s Gym in Anniston, Ala., where Tara met him. She had no idea he was an NFL player.

“I was going to ask you out,” Kevin told her the next day, “but I guess that you won’t go out with me now.” He guessed wrong. They married in 1992.

Gavin, three inches shorter than his father, turns 25 next month.

“He has Kevin’s focus,” Tara said. “He walks like Kevin, he stands like Kevin, when I close my eyes he sometimes sounds just like him.”

Tara understands that Gavin’s is an Improbable Dream.

“His dream was to follow in his dad’s footsteps,” Tara said, “and it was not a dream that Kevin gave him. As a matter of fact, Kevin tried on many occasions to actually discourage it, because he’s like, ‘What you’re wanting to do is borderline impossible.’ ”

Gavin: “He actually at first said, ‘I don’t want you playing football, I don’t want you to deal with that pressure.’ I just remember my dad being the most gentle giant.”

Gavin and Gabrielle, who is working toward being a veterinarian, are proof that you can triumph over tragedy.

“Kevin always instilled in our children that you don’t let anything or anybody get in a way of your dream,” Tara said. “They knew that their dad would not want them to sit home and cry. They both knew that the way they could honor his memory in the best way was to keep working hard at the dream that they wanted, because that’s what he wanted for them more than anything.

“Their dad is so proud of the strength and fortitude that they have shown in being able to go forward to do what he would want them to do.”

Kevin would call pass rushers and offensive linemen for Gavin to pick their brain.

“Gavin has pass-rush tape of every pass rusher who’s ever done anything with pass rushing that Kevin made for him that he can watch and break it down,” Tara said. “One of the greatest things Kevin taught Gavin was how to watch film. How to look for those clues. How to be a student of the game.”

Now Kevin Greene’s proud student takes the exam. And not just for himself.

“Everything he can humanly possibly do, he is willing to do that to make his dream become a reality, and to honor himself,” Tara said, “but also he has a passion to honor his dad, in the time that they spent together, and they loved together, and worked on together.

“That he can proudly carry another Greene into the NFL.”

Gang Greene together.

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